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Like traditional dental implants, mini dental implants can replace one or more missing teeth. They can support dental crowns, bridges, or dentures and are placed directly into the missing tooth’s bone socket. They can also be used to help move teeth during orthodontic treatment.
Mini dental implants have the same structure as regular implants but are around half the size. They comprise a one-piece titanium screw less than 3 millimeters (mm).1 A dentist can often place a mini dental implant in a single visit.
Mini dental implants are growing in popularity as they're less invasive and less likely to cause discomfort or pain during placement. Conversely, standard dental implants often require multiple dental appointments and lengthy, complicated surgery.
These implants are also a potential option for people who cannot have standard dental implants. They don't require the same level of bone density for successful placement. This makes them more suitable for elderly people who tend to suffer from bone breakdown (resorption).
However, mini implants are not a good fit for all tooth loss cases. Keep reading to learn more.
Every dental procedure has advantages and disadvantages, and mini dental implants are no exception.
The benefits of mini dental implants include:2
Orthodontists sometimes refer to mini implants as temporary anchorage devices. This is because they are used to help move teeth and are then removed.
Mini dental implants are immediate-loading implants, meaning the implant is placed as soon as a tooth is extracted. Although this is convenient, it also means they may not last as long.3
Regular implants are a longer-term solution. They allow for better weight distribution and provide a stronger chewing force.4
In some cases, you may need two mini implants to do the job of a single conventional implant, which delays healing time.
Another downside is that mini implants become damaged and worn down much more quickly than standard implants if you grind your teeth. Sometimes a nightguard can prevent this issue.
The ideal candidate for mini dental implants is an adult with good general and oral health. They should have healthy gums free of periodontal disease and enough bone density to support the implant.
Children and people without fully developed mouths are not good candidates. Because their bones are still growing, the position of the implant can change over time.
Additionally, people with the following health conditions are not good candidates:1
Mini dental implants may not be an option for people who smoke, grind their teeth (bruxism), or take certain medications. These include anticoagulants, steroids, chemotherapy agents, and bisphosphonates.
Your dentist can help you decide between mini implants and traditional implants. There are several factors to consider.
Conventional implants are more expensive, complex, and invasive. They require a larger incision in the gum tissue and drilling into the bone. This results in a longer healing time and more postoperative pain and swelling.
You could also require bone grafting to ensure the implant post has something to grab onto. They are also a multi-step process, as you'll need time to heal before the permanent tooth is placed.
However, traditional implants are more durable and can support a larger prosthetic tooth. They also fuse more completely with the bone, resulting in a stronger grip. Therefore, they may be your best option if you're considering a dental implant to support dentures.
By comparison, mini implants are less invasive. The small size of the implant post means that your dentist won't need to make a large incision or drill into the bone as much. This results in a shorter healing time and less pain and swelling.
You can also have the fake tooth mounted on the same visit, so you'll leave the dentist's office with a new smile. They also typically cost less.
But they're not the best option if you need to support a lot of weight with your implant. Because they're smaller, they aren't as strong or durable as a traditional implant.
The mini dental implant procedure is minimally invasive and can often be completed in one visit. Before the procedure, the dentist takes X-rays assess the jawbone and determine where to place the implants.
Specific procedure steps can vary, particularly if you require multiple posts. Generally, the dentist performs the following steps to place a mini implant:1
Sometimes, the dentist may not need to drill a hole for the implant. That's because some mini implants have a self-tapping threaded screw design that grabs onto the jawbone. You may not need sutures or stitches if the incision is small.
Everyone heals differently, but recovery from mini implants is usually fast and uneventful. A healthy person should notice their gums healing around the mini-implant in 2 to 5 days.
The jaw bone heals around the tiny threads of the mini dental implant in around 3 months. Your dentist should monitor the implant’s healing and stability to ensure success.5
Following the procedure, you may experience pain and soreness. You should be able to manage this with ice and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil).
Sometimes your dentist will prescribe pain-relieving medications, which you should take as directed.
Other aftercare involves avoiding hard foods and sticky candy. These could loosen or pull out the implant. Instead, choose soft or liquid foods like soup, smoothies, and mashed potatoes, while you recover.
Also, brush and floss regularly to keep plaque and tartar from building up around the implant. See your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and checkup.
Call your dentist if you experience unexpected symptoms like severe pain, jaw numbness, or bleeding.
Mini dental implants cost between $800 to $1,500 per implant, less than traditional implants. They cost less because the surgery is more straightforward, and you need fewer dental appointments.6
If you have dental insurance, the cost may be lower. Contact your dental insurance provider to find out about coverage.
Mini dental implants can replace missing teeth. They're a smaller, less invasive, and more affordable option than their standard counterparts.
The surgery is also less complex than traditional implants, and the healing time is shorter, with less pain and swelling. Another advantage is they can usually be completed in one visit.
However, mini dental implants are not as strong or durable as traditional implants. As a result, they're not suitable for everyone.
Ask your dentist about their experience and success rates if you're considering mini implants. They can help you decide if they're the best option for you.
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