are zirconia implants strongest

With so many various dental materials out there on the market, it can be overwhelming to try to decide which one to pick for your smile. It probably seems like every implant dentist is offering different designs. Or they might use labs that promote one material over another. How can you know whether any of the newer dental implant materials are really that much stronger or durable than older, proven ones like zirconia? 

Dropping Dental Implants: Do They Break?

If you search the internet long enough, you’ll see videos on people dropping implant teeth on concrete, running over them with cars, or even tossing them from the top of multi-story buildings. 

The reason why some of these implant providers are dropping them on purpose is to tout that other materials might be stronger or more durable. Such as nanoceramics, which are generally lighter than zirconia materials. They claim that the nanoceramics are less likely to break when dropped from a building, making them stronger than zirconia.

But does any of that matter? How does dropping implant teeth off of a building compare to the biting pressure and forces applied when you’re chewing with dental implants? 

Comparing Weight of Dental Implants Materials

Newer implant materials are generally lighter than zirconia. But we’re talking about a difference of only a few ounces. Many of these new nanoceramics actually weigh less than your natural teeth. If you were to take all 28 of your teeth (assuming your wisdom teeth were removed) and say they each had a crown or filling, they would weigh about as much as a zirconia arch. In other words, the zirconia isn’t heavy at all. 

For example, a set of zirconia teeth weighs about 2.4 ounces. That’s about the same amount as a nearly empty water bottle with only a tiny sip or two left in the bottom. But nanoceramic teeth only weigh about 0.8 ounces. Technically, the zirconia is 3x heavier than the nanoceramic. But surprise, the zirconia prosthesis is actually smaller!

Ultimately the difference of a few ounces doesn’t matter when we’re talking about biting forces from your jaw muscles. Biting pressure doesn’t affect the weight of something the same way dropping it off of a building might. 

Flexural Strength of Dental Implants

Whenever we’re talking about how strong implant teeth are, the type of strength we’re concerned with is “flexural strength.” Flexural strength is the amount of stress a material can take on when it’s flexing from applied pressure before it breaks. We measure it in megapascals. 

The strength of our zirconia implant teeth is somewhere around 1200 megapascals. Even if you tried to break them with your hands, it would be extremely difficult. 

But what about these newer materials on the market? Like the ones that are extremely light nanoceramic and acrylic? These materials only have a range of about 200-400 megapascals. They’re lighter, yes. But their flexural strength isn’t anywhere close to zirconia implants. 

Flexural strength matters most when we’re talking about biting and chewing pressure. Those forces are going to be different than dropping or throwing something off of a building and it hitting concrete. 

Dropping Dental Implants: Which Ones Break?

The online videos for acrylic and nanoceramic implants try to prove that they’re stronger than implants. The reason it’s a little confusing is that most of those appliances hold up better when you drop them off of buildings. 

We tried an experiment too. We took zirconia implants and dropped them repeatedly onto the concrete from varying distances. Then we went to the top of a multi-story parking garage and dropped them on the sidewalk. At that point, they finally broke. Keep in mind that they were dropped several times beforehand and that we also purposely ran over them with a car. 

Does that mean zirconia implants aren’t as good as new nanoceramics? Not exactly…

It’s “All About That Force”

Even if you didn’t take physics or aren’t an engineer, it’s possible to understand how dropping something off of a building may affect some things differently than others. In this case, zirconia vs. nanoceramic dental implants. 

Remember how we discussed that zirconia weighs more than nanoceramic? The weight—or its mass and density—change the force that’s applied to the prosthesis once it hits the ground. Even if the distance and acceleration of the two implants are the same as they’re dropped, the heavier one will have a harder impact because it weighs more. We could get into the mathematical equations if you really wanted to, but it boils down to heavier items having a heavier impact, even if the difference is only a few ounces. 

Is it really a big deal that these activities might or might not break zirconia implants? After all, any of these activities would also break your natural teeth. Especially jumping off a building. 

Teeth are for Flexing, Not Impact

When we bite and chew our food, our teeth need to be able to have some flex to them. They’re responsive to the pressure that’s applied. But those heavy forces don’t cause severe impact like hitting or dropping does. Biting pressures are completely different than forces of gravity. So, when it comes to replacing missing teeth, we need your dental implants to withstand flexing, as opposed to gravitational forces. 

Yes, there are lots of new and exciting materials in the dental industry. But none of them—as of yet—are as strong and durable as zirconia

So, why are people using non-zirconia materials for implants? For one, zirconia is one of the hardest materials to work on (that’s what makes it so strong.) You have to be extremely precise from day one because it’s not possible to make a lot of adjustments to them. Whereas cheaper materials like acrylic or ceramic are easier to work with. It’s exciting to see where the possibilities of these materials might go, but for future purposes, the longevity of zirconia implants is the best option out there. 

Don’t Let the Videos Fool You

Experiments like dropping implants off of buildings seem convincing, but they don’t replicate the everyday equivalent of biting and chewing forces. Dropping anything off of a 40-story building is a great way to break it (including natural teeth or dentures.) The closest thing we can get to showing flexural strength is probably driving over dental implants with a car. So, for now, stick with zirconia! Contact us today to learn more.