How do Mini Implants compare to traditional implants?
I consider traditional implants (see implant section) the number one choice for most edentulous situations. However, there are some limiting factors for traditional implants including expense, bone quantity, medical condition, time, etc.
Mini implants are a nice alternative.
First, they are about half the cost of traditional implants.
And, they are “mini” (ie. narrower); therefore, they can be used when the patient’s jaw is too narrow for traditional implants. The placement surgery is much less invasive, and, in most cases, a surgical incision is not needed. Mini implants are placed directly through the tissue. This means no sutures, no bleeding, less post operative problems, and quicker placement and healing. AND, in the right situation, they can be loaded (ie. Denture attached, bridge placed, crown placed) the same day that the implant is placed.
I use the analogy its like placing a thumb tack into the side of a pencil (mini) vs. using a hand drill to “drill and screw” (traditional). Mini implants are still “screwed” or “threaded” into the bone but the narrow nature of the screw allows easier negotiation and less compression through bone and more clearance around anatomic structures.
Does the narrow nature of the mini implant make it weak?
Since the “mini implant” is so narrow, it could be considered less strong than traditional implants. However, I have seen very few (if any) mini implants break when used in the correct way and in the correct situation.
I am not a big proponent for using mini implants to support a crown or a bridge. I WILL STILL do it, however, if I don’t have a choice due to lack of bone or limiting anatomic structures. But, I worry about the mini supporting the biting forces of a crown or a bridge. I will design the crown or bridge with this in mind.
The most ideal indication for mini implants is the support and retention of Full dentures and Partial dentures. Denture wearers produce much less biting force than a crown or a bridge.
For full dentures, I place four mini implants on the lower arch or six implants for the upper arch. No incision or sutures are needed in most cases. “Ball” attachments (see photo) are connected to the denture in the same day.
This means the patient comes in with a loose fitting denture and leaves with a solid implant retained denture in the same day!! The denture is still removable, but “snaps” into place as the “doughnut” attachments inside the denture fits around the mini implant “ball” abutments.
To the right is my patient, Dolores. We placed 4 implants and incorporated 4 attachments into her denture and she has been ecstatic about the improvement in her ability to eat food.
It has been several years since I performed her proceedure, but when I see her for recall, she always comments, “I can’t believe I didn’t do this earlier in my life!”
I have one fee that encompasses this entire procedure (including attachments/prosthetics). This is not an implant by implant fee as with traditional.
This is one of my favorite procedures because, in one day, and for one fee, I can change someone’s life by giving them back the ability to eat, improve speech, and improve self esteem.