Losing a tooth can be unsightly, especially if it’s a front tooth. It’s hard not to get self-conscious when this happens. Not having a complete set of teeth can also lead to eating problems.
Nowadays, it’s quite easy to replace missing or badly diseased teeth using dental implants. Implants have an advantage over dentures, the traditional way of replacing teeth.
Dental implants are composed of an artificial root covered with a dental crown. The artificial root is surgically attached into the jawbone and once healed, is used to anchor the artificial replacement crown, which is permanently attached to the implant. The result is an artificial tooth which blends in perfectly with the other teeth.
Dentures, even with advances in dental technology, are still far from perfect and cause many problems for patients. Many still complain of pain, particularly those using a complete set of lower dentures. On the other hand, partial dentures, which are used when only several teeth are missing, are anchored to the teeth on either side of the empty area using a metal clasp, and can be very damaging to these teeth.
Also, as a patient ages, new sets of dentures need to be made to fit the changing gum tissue and chewing surfaces of the teeth in the dentures.
But dental implants also have their fair share of concerns. As with all types of surgery, infection can occur, but these cases are rare.
The real concern is the exposure to metal ions 24 hours per day because dental implants are made of pure titanium and/or a titanium alloy. Chronic exposure to titanium, which is not biologically inert, may trigger inflammation, allergies, hypersensitivity and autoimmune disease in susceptible individuals.
Intolerance to metal implants is not something new. Majority of patients who had their incompatible dental material removed experienced reduced metal sensitivity and long-term health improvement.
Among the severe problems reported after receiving titanium dental implants include muscle, joint, and nerve pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, neurological problems, depression, and skin inflammation.
Though it is rare, cancer is a well-known complication of orthopedic surgery that involves metal implants. The use of implanted titanium can potentially induce the abnormal proliferation of cells (neoplasia), which can lead to the growth of malignant tumors.
In 2008, a 38-year-old woman was reported to have developed bone cancer almost a year after getting a titanium dental implant. Luckily, she was successfully treated with chemotherapy.
The presence of any metal in your mouth also leaves you prone to “galvanic toxicity” because your mouth essentially becomes a charged battery when dissimilar metals are present in the saliva.
All that is needed to make a battery are two or more dissimilar metals and a liquid medium that can conduct electricity (i.e. electrolyte). The metal dental implants, fillings, crowns, partials and orthodontic braces in your mouth are the dissimilar metals, while saliva is the electrolyte.
The movement of the metal ions from the metals in your mouth into the saliva generates electricity known as galvanic current, which can actually be measured using an ammeter!
The electricity produced increases the corrosion rate of the metal-based dental restorations, which hastens the release of metal ions into your mouth. In turn, these metal ions react with other components of your body, leading to sensitivity, inflammation, and ultimately, autoimmune disease.
Some people are very susceptible to these internal electrical currents and may experience unexplained pain, nerve shocks, ulcerations and inflammation. They may also notice a constant metallic or salty taste, or a burning sensation in their mouths.
There is also a concern that the oral electricity may direct electrical currents into brain tissue and possibly disrupt the natural electrical current in the brain.
If you don’t want to settle for dentures but want to avoid the dangers of titanium dental implants, high-strength ceramic dental implants have become alternatives to metal-based implants. Metal-free zirconia implants, which are popular in Europe and South America, are now available in the U.S. They are highly biocompatible to the human body and release low levels of metal ions compared to traditional metallic implants.