Difference between Mini Dental Implants and Standard Dental ImplantsRegular implants are tooth root replacements that form a base for permanent or removable artificial teeth and are also used to hold removable dentures in place. They provide an effective alternative to more conventional methods of replacing teeth, whether you’re missing one tooth, several teeth or all your teeth.

Mini implants are generally used to secure removable dentures in the dense lower jaw, rather than the hollow bone of the upper jaw. While upper dentures are typically more secure than their lower counterparts, lower dentures can over years become loose through loss of jaw bone support, leading to badly-fitting dentures that in many cases cause discomfort.

Mini implants can often be fitted to support a patient’s existing dentures unless they’ve become badly worn down or have a poor bite function, when it may be necessary to make new dentures.

A big advantage of mini implants is that they are suitable for patients with a large degree of jaw bone weakening, and can be used to mount full or partial dentures, crowns and other restorations. According to leading implant dentistry platform OsseoNews.com, mini implants may be used for single tooth implants or implants to replace multiple teeth splinted together.

How Mini Implants Work

MDIs – mini dental implants – are also called narrow diameter or small diameter implants (NDIs and SDIs), because they’re smaller than the most frequently used dental implants.

Standard implants usually comprise two pieces with a diameter of 3.25 to 5 millimetres that are inserted into the bone socket of missing teeth with an external screw. A mini implant is a solid, one-piece screw, less than 3 millimetres in diameter, with a ball-shaped end protruding from the jaw bone. Rubber O-rings on dentures fit around the mini implant balls.

Having either mini implants or regular implants fitted requires follow-up visits to your dentist so they can monitor them, and also the health of your gums. The O-rings in mini implants will need replacing when they loosen or wear out over time. The more often you take your dentures out and put them back in, the more frequently you’ll need to have the O-rings replaced.

Both standard and mini implants are made from titanium, a metal that’s well-matched for use in the human body (biocompatible) and won’t trigger an adverse reaction. In fact, implants are unique in dentistry in actually promoting bone growth.

Routine dental implants restore both the form and function of a missing tooth and are designed to last for many years. A drawback with standard implants is that they require a fair amount of bone structure, which may require a graft, and some individuals may have suffered too much bone loss to make standard implants viable.

Because mini implants are generally designed to be used as two pieces – with the anchor combined with an abutment post, onto which a crown is placed – they can cause slightly more stress on the jaw bone, as two mini implants are being used to provide the same support as a single traditional implant.

Pros and Cons of Mini Implants

Mini implants require a less invasive surgical procedure, affecting less bone tissue, so the healing process can be faster, and, because of their smaller diameter, they can often be placed without a bone grafting procedure.

Mini implants provide an alternative for people with lose lower dentures who don’t meet the criteria for regular implants, or who wouldn’t be able to tolerate standard implants.

The WebMD health information resource says that in most instances anyone healthy enough to undergo a routine tooth extraction is a likely candidate for a regular implant, but there may be issues in the case of heavy smokers, people suffering from chronic ailments, or patients who have had radiation therapy to the neck or head.

A downside of mini implants is that they’re less likely to provide a permanent solution, because they’re weaker and less durable than routine implants. Standard implants allow for better weight distribution and put less long-term stress on the jaw bone. The larger surface area of traditional implants also results in a stronger chewing power.

However, in some cases mini implants are the only option, including cases of people with bone degeneration problems. A mini implant can also provide a short-term fix until a more permanent solution is possible.

Mini Implant or Standard Implant?

According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), more than 35 million people in the U.S. have lost all their upper or lower teeth, or both.

Whether standard implants or mini implants are best for you depends largely on the condition of your mouth and jaw. To make an informed decision, consult an experienced implant dentist who keeps up to speed with the latest techniques and is able to offer a customized treatment plan designed to meet your individual needs and requirements.

An expert in restorative dental procedures can ensure your implants, mini or standard, are as functional as they are aesthetically pleasing – and that’s certainly something to smile about! 

Find an Experienced, Qualified Dental Implant Surgeon

If you decide to go down the mini implant path, make sure your dentist has the necessary expertise.

Kim Gowey, a former president of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, underlines the importance of dentists being well versed in dental implants before proceeding with mini implants. He said. "Without extensive implant knowledge, they will not know proper surgical techniques and all the basics about bone healing critical for implant success.”

Although mini dental implants entail only a minimally-invasive surgical procedure, you may decide it’s prudent to look for a qualified doctor of dental surgery. The only surgeons recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA) are oral surgeons and periodontists, and maxillofacial (jaw and face) surgeons.

The Institute for Dental Implant Awareness (IDIA) points out that dental surgeons undergo an extra four years of training in a hospital-based residency after completing dental school, and periodontists go through a three-year surgical residency program.