Dental Implants Metal Allergy
When it comes to replacing missing or damaged teeth, dental implants are the closest option to natural teeth. The dental implant replaces the root and the crown replaces the missing tooth itself. The implant is a screw shaped metal post that is placed into the jaw bone where it heals together with the bone. If you have a metal allergy, are you unable to look into dental implants as an option?
First let’s look at allergies. When you have an allergic reaction, your body’s immune system is responding to a foreign substance, but this reaction is an exaggerated reaction. Depending on the person and the allergy, some people only experience mild rashes as a response to stimulus and other people can experience complete organ system shutdowns. There is no limit of what you can be allergic to or how many things you can be allergic to, which includes metal.
When it comes to metal allergies, most people are allergic to specific metals. Statistically, nickel is a popular allergy with about 17% of women and 3% of men allergic to it, and smaller percentages of people are allergic to other metals like cobalt and chromium. Often, people react to metal with allergic responses when they are in jewelry, belts, or items that maintain continued contact with skin. The average response to these metals includes rashes, hives, and swelling. In the case of joint replacement or implants, the use of a metal that the body is allergic to, a more serious and even dangerous response could happen. Ultimately, the body would reject the metal item and the person would need to have an additional surgery to address the rejection.
Often in dentistry, there is a combination of metals used, or an amalgam, for dental fillings. For dental amalgams, a precious metal like silver or gold is combined with other metals that include copper, tin, and even mercury. Dental amalgams rarely cause reactions in people, but there could be rashes or inflammation from the metal mixture.
Dental implants rely on titanium; this metal is regularly used in both medicine and dentistry. In the 1950s a scientist discovered this property that titanium has the ability to osseointegrate or fuse with bone. Bone tissue can grow on titanium, or in other words, the body treats the implant like a part of the body and forms a permanent bond. A titanium dental implant will start to function as an artificial tooth root and provide a stable anchor for the dental crown.
TItanium rarely corrodes and does not allow for the growth and build up of bacteria in the gums. Titanium has been used in surgeries and implants since the 1960s so there are decades of cases and patients who demonstrate that less than 1% of people have an allergy to titanium. Allergies to titanium are extremely rare and titanium is approved by the FDA as a safe material to be used in medical and dental applications. Titanium dental implants are shown to be successful long term and last at least 25 years on average. Your dental implant is an investment in your future oral health for years to come.
Titanium Allergy Symptoms & Tests
If you have other allergies or you are concerned that you may have a titanium allergy but you do not know for certain, there is a specific test the dentist can use to determine your response to the material. A MELISA test is a blood test that uses only your white blood cells, or one of the major agents of your immune system. Those cells are exposed to titanium and the response to the metal is measured. This type of allergy is different from the more commonly known skin patch test because it is more sensitive and more accurate. The dentist can review the results and compare those to the composition of your dental implant. Often the implant is made predominantly of titanium, but there is a small combination of other metals used to make it and improve it.
Based on research, less than 0.6% of people are allergic to titanium, but if your current dental work or dental implant are causing bumps in your mouth or dry patches on your gums, you may be allergic to titanium. Other ways you could respond to titanium if you are allergic to it would be gum inflammation around the location of the titanium, sores, or swelling in other soft tissue in your mouth. If you are one of the few people allergic to titanium, there are alternatives to traditional implants.
Some people are not able to use titanium in their dental implants and other people avoid using metal in their mouths. They are not removed from the list of candidates for dental implants. Instead, they can look into a non-metallic ceramic material called zirconia. Zirconia implants were developed in 1987 and have been widely used in Europe before they were approved for use in the United States. Just like its metal counterpart, zirconia has the ability to fuse or osseointegrate with bone and it resists corrosion. By its nature, zirconia is very strong and durable which is ideal for an artificial tooth root.
Dental implants are placed through surgery, so it is important to reduce as much risk as possible before the dentist performs the procedure. Once you have determined that you are allergic to titanium, then you can review the zirconia dental implants. The material itself is not metallic so it is considered inert. As a result, there is a very low risk of allergic reaction to zirconia. This version of ceramic is strong so you will be able to rely on your dental implant to act like your natural teeth. Zirconia is a white colored ceramic so it looks more like a natural tooth root under your gums as compared to the dark metal titanium implants. If you are replacing a tooth towards the front of your mouth, you may consider this material for aesthetic reasons. Zirconia has been tested to be hygienic and does not allow for plaque to build up on it below the gums. It can even keep your gums free from gingivitis better than your natural teeth.