Mini Dental Implants (MDI), also called mini implants, are an alternative to regular dental implants. They are about half the width of standard implants, cost about one quarter the price, and require no recovery time. They are about the size of a toothpick and are considered a permanent implant.
Mini implants first started being placed about 1970, but were not deemed permanent or long-term replacements until 1999 when ruled so by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since it is a relatively new procedure, no one is sure how long they last. Many of the implants put into place since the 1970s were still functioning 30 years later.
Sometimes called narrow implants, a mini implant is about half the width of regular implants and only about .07 inches (1.8 mm) in diameter. This makes them useful not only for use with dentures, but for supporting crowns when space for an implant is limited. They are made of titanium alloy and come in various lengths, each to accommodate different bones densities. Patients without enough bone to support a regular implant can almost always get minis.
During the procedure, a light anesthetic is used right on the gums. The mini implants can often be put right through the gums and into the bone without an incision in the gum. A pilot hole is drilled into the bone in the jaw with a small hand tool. The implants are screwed into the bone using the hand and a small thumb wrench. Usually four mini implants are placed on the lower jaw along the line where the six front teeth would have been.
The whole procedure takes about 90 minutes, and patients are left with little discomfort or pain that cannot be treated easily with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Mini implants can accommodate dentures right after surgery. Even those that require incisions because of various bone abnormalities can still immediately use their dentures. This is a welcome alternative to the three to six month healing time that standard implants require.
Dentures are retrofitted using one of two methods. The first method is to hollow out a portion of the denture and fill the hollow with a soft reline material. This material allows some level of movement and must be replaced regularly.
The second method is permanent and uses a rubber o-ring over each implant to house the dentures. The hollow of the denture is ground down until the dentures fit together correctly and a hard plastic fills the hollow. The dentures are placed back over the housings and the patient bites down during the curing process. After complete, the dentures should snap down over the housings in a permanent fix.
There are some people who are not suited to getting mini implants. People with uncontrolled diabetes, a history of radiation treatments on the jaw, immuno-suppressed patients, and those with substance abuse should not get this surgery. Other people are more likely to have complications, but are not necessarily precluded from getting the surgery. Those with heavy smoking or drinking, Sjorgren's syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, people who clench their teeth, and young people who are still growing are not the best candidates.