The invention of the mini-implant and subsequent FDA approval for their use occurred over 30 years ago. It started with the work of Victor Sendax, widely recognized as a leading pioneer in implantology, at NYU dental school one of his favorite stories is his placement of dental mini-implants in the mouth of the famous tenor Pavarotti. He was instructed to return for the placement of standard implants, but never did. Pavarotti passed away 25 or more years later with the mini-implants and restorations still in his mouth. The original FDA approval was for denture retention. Today, their use has expanded because of their success rate; the FDA approval covers many other applications.
Mini-implants are a paradigm shift in dentistry. Traditional standard of care dentistry dictates that if a patient is missing a tooth, the dentist will replace it with a traditional bridge. This consists of drilling down the teeth on either side of the space to prepare them for crowns; a dental lab makes two crowns attached to a third fake crown; then the entire three unit bridge is cemented into place. Mini-Implants are small diameter implants requiring no drilling on otherwise healthy adjacent teeth; no bone alteration; and the patient receives an immediate and less expensive implant supported bridge the same day.4 Only local anesthetic is needed, and the discomfort is minimal. They look and feel like real teeth. They are easy to clean, AND this procedure is approximately 30-50% cheaper than a traditional bridge.
Mini-implants were used as temporary treatments alongside placement of standard implants. When standard implants healed 4-6 months later, the dentist would remove the mini-implants and restore the standard implants. It was often found that the mini-implants were so well integrated that the bone would be damaged and some bone might actually be removed when taking the mini-implants out. This is how dentists discovered the durability of mini-implants. The fear of a failing implant still prevents many dentists from using the mini-implants. Dentists have steered clear of their use as a result, this technique has been denied to the consumer due to that fear. Once the practitioner begins to see the longevity of the small diameter implants in practice, their comfort level goes up. This is the case with any learning curve. Fortunately, many general dentists are finding out about this little versatile implant.
During the last 25 years, there have been further studies on the mini-implant and its use. Research and successes throughout the history of the mini-implant use, show that it is in the consumer’s best interest to offer this service. They solve problems in unique situations where other standard techniques are either too costly, too invasive or medically unsound (The risk to the patient outweighs the standard treatment). There are many situations where a patient cannot tolerate a surgical intervention that removes bone, places a standard implant into the jaw, then waiting for a 4-6 month healing period before the restoration can be completed; an example would be severe diabetes. Traditional bridges are hard for the patient to keep clean, necessitating special cleaning floss or mini brushes to get under the bridge. Also, many dental insurance plans will not cover the cost of crown placement on the adjacent teeth unless they needed crowns in their own right. This translates into more out -of-pocket expense for the patient. If a comparable option of a mini-implant can be offered to the patient with the same resultant quality of life, it is easy to see where and why mini-implants have earned their place in the dental repertoire of care.
In the seven years that I have been placing mini-implants in my private practice, there is no question in my mind that their success rates are comparable to standard implants and the procedure is minimally invasive. The best part is that mini-implants may be immediately restored and the patient can be chewing on their new implant the same day.
To quote an ancient Greek poet Theognis; “Don’t rush. There is a perfect moment for everything we do.” Now is that “perfect moment” for mini dental implants.
- Griffitts TM, Collins PC. Mini dental implants: An adjunct for retention, stability, and comfort for the edentulous patient. Oral Surg Med Oral Radiol Endod. 2005;100(5): e81-e84.
- Sendax V. Mini dental implants: principles and practices. Elsevier Health Sciences, Sep 24, 2012.
- Vigolo P, Odont M, Givani A. Clinical evaluation of single-tooth mini-implant restorations: A five-year retrospective study. JProsthet Dent 2000; 84:50-4.
- Degidi M, Piattelli A, Carinci F. Clinical outcome of narrow diameter implants: a retrospective study of 510 implants. J Periodontol. 2008 Jan; 79(1): 49-54