By dentist Dr. Richard Mitchell
Dental mini implants are smaller than normal dental implants. Much smaller. They can be used as an alternative to conventional implants, but ONLY IN CERTAIN situations.
They are about the shape and size of the end of a wooden toothpick, but only about one to one-and-a-half centimeters long. Although they are both slimmer AND shorter than normal dental implants, their main advantages are a result of how THIN they are.
As far as I know, all mini implants are made of titanium, the same material as normal implants.
Like most things, mini implants have advantages and disadvantages; let's take a look at the advantages first!
Mini Implants are so small that they don't need much room at all, if you have a small gap where a tooth is missing.
But what is equally important is that they can be relatively short. This is very useful if you have a loose full lower denture owing to your jawbone having shrunk down.
With a small, thin lower jawbone, normal implants just wouldn't have enough bone around them to become fused into place. But dental mini implants need much less bone.
The only "catch" here is that you sometimes need more of them, say 5 or 6 instead of 3 or 4 normal implants. Above is an illustration from 3M Imtec, who make dental mini implants that I really like. Unfortunately, they stopped making them from September 1st 2016.
HOWEVER, similar mini implants are still available from other manufactureres such as Sterngold and Intralock .
As well as being small, mini dental implants are quicker and easier for the dentist to put into place. So his training courses are simpler and cheaper, AND he needs less time during surgery to put the implants in.
For you, this means they are about one third of the cost of normal implants.
When should you consider mini implants?
The best time to think about mini implants is when you have a loose lower denture, and your jawbone is now too shrunk down for normal-sized implants.
Mini implants can be used to hold your loose lower denture in place. Usually 5 or 6 implants are used, but most dentists would advise you to expect 1 or 2 to become loose with time and require removal. The others will remain in place and continue to work normally.
The tops of the implants that are visible above the gum have small attachments that click into the inside of the lower denture. This arrangement means that when you bite, the implants absorb almost all the weight.
Once you have decided to go ahead with dental mini implants, your dentist will take several X-rays of the area the implants will go, at the front of your lower jaw where the incisor teeth used to be. After planning and taking certain measurements, it's time to put the implants in place!
On the day, your dentist will gently numb the area of your mouth with a local anesthetic. (You can read more about this at How to get a painless shot).
Then your dentist will carefully and slowly drill several small holes vertically into the jaw bone.
Next, he will gently screw a mini dental implant down into each of the holes he just made.
Once all the mini implants are screwed halfway down, the dentist will check that they are all parallel and fitting well.
Then, as the implants get harder to screw down, your dentist will use a miniature torque wrench to slowly turn each implant a bit more, until each one is fitted down almost level with the gum, with only the small ball attachment visible.
Finally, he will fit the lower denture over the implant heads. There are several ways of doing this, depending on your dentist and on your jaw shape.
The little attachments are quite firm, and anchor the lower denture down, preventing it from wobbling about when you speak or eat.
Dental mini implants can be a great help in stopping your lower denture from moving about! And at a fraction of the price of full-sized implants, they are certainly worth asking your dentist about. If he doesn't have the training to do them, get him to refer you to someone who does.