If you’re missing teeth but traditional implants aren’t an option, mini dental implants may be the solution.
It’s important to get teeth replaced, not just for aesthetic reasons but for your oral health as well. A dentist is more likely to recommend implants over other replacement teeth options because they are the option that most closely mimics natural teeth. But not everyone has strong enough bone in their jaw to get traditional implants. That’s where mini dental implants come in.
If you’re interested in learning more about mini implants in the UK, this article has got you covered. Keep reading to find out all about them including:
- Who can have them
- What mini implants cost in the UK
- What the procedure is like
- If they are right for you
We hope this detailed guide to mini dental implants helps you decide on the best type of dental treatment to restore your smile!
Table of contents
What are mini dental implants?
A mini dental implant is, as the name suggests, a smaller variation of a traditional implant. Sizes range from 1.8 to 3.3mm in diameter (a little wider than a toothpick) and 10 to 15mm in length.
Mini implants consist of a titanium post with a ball at the end. The ball then supports whatever prosthetic teeth are being placed; whether removable snap-on dentures or permanent crowns or overdentures.
Mini dental implants vs traditional
Mini implants are different to normal dental implants because of their size and design. Conventional implants have a diameter of 3.4 to 5.8mm, whereas most mini dental implants measure less than 3.3mm in diameter.
Mini dental implants are also simpler in design. Whereas traditional ones are designed with a post that has an abutment attached to it, which the crown then attaches to, mini dental implants consist of a post with a ball at one end and a rubber O-ring that secures the crown or dentures.
Another main difference is that mini dental implants protrude out of the gum surface when they are placed into the bone, whereas normal implants are placed under the gums.
The greatest difference between mini and full-sized dental implants is largely the way in which one implant is utilized over the other. Mini implants tend to be used in rather special scenarios in which the patient doesn't have enough room for a full-sized implant or if there are special oral health conditions to consider.
A key area of note when considering a mini versus full-sized implant: the ability for the implant to properly absorb the pressure from chewing — if the implant isn't strong enough it could fail, such as a mini implant used in a high-pressure chewing locale (e.g. back of the mouth). An ideal mini dental implant candidate would be a patient who is not in need of an implant in a high impact chewing location in the mouth, or for those who don't quite have the spacial capacity for a full-sized implant. In some cases we see patients who prefer to utilize a mini dental implant to support existing dentures, or who are not ideal candidates for extensive oral surgery.
Dr. Igal Elyassi, Wilshire Smile Studio
Who can have mini dental implants?
Regular implants require a certain amount of bone strength and density in order to be successfully placed and supported over the long term. But if you have been missing one or more teeth for a while, the bone in your jaw may have started to deteriorate, meaning it cannot support a traditional implant. Trauma and disease may also cause bone loss.
Standard implants require a minimum of 6mm of bone width in order to be successful, but if you’ve experienced bone deterioration, you might not meet the requirements.
Since implants are currently the best way to replace missing teeth, your dentist may recommend that you get mini dental implants instead, since they can be placed in a narrower ridge. However, a narrow ridge is not the only reason that a mini implant may be recommended by your dentist instead of a regular one.
Other reasons include:
- Retaining overdentures when standard implant placement isn’t an option
- Rehabilitating patients whose oral anatomy allows for limited placement of prosthetics
- Replacing a tooth in patients who can’t afford regular implants
- Replacing a tooth for patients who are reluctant to have regular implant dental surgery
What are they suitable for?
A single mini dental implant can be used to replace a single tooth. They are most suitable for the front teeth or premolars, which take less pressure than the back molars. In some cases, it is possible to secure a single molar on two mini implants, but a single traditional implant would be the preferred way to replace a molar. It's uncommon for mini dental implants to support a tooth bridge.
One of the most common uses for mini implants is securing a denture in place. People who wear dentures often have trouble with them slipping out of place, so implants can make wearing dentures much less inconvenient. If you already wear dentures, you may be able to have your existing set adapted to be secured by mini implants.
Mini dental implants are also used to permanently retain dentures, in which case they are non-removable.
How long do mini dental implants last?
Mini dental implants are a permanent option for replacing one or more teeth. They can, in theory, last a lifetime. That being said, they often do not last as long as regular implants. That’s because they have a lower bite force tolerance so they are more likely to break with continued use. Other general factors that will determine how long your mini dental implant lasts include:
- Your oral hygiene
- Alcohol or drug abuse
There is limited scientific research on the longevity of mini dental implants vs. traditional, but this study found that 92.1% of mini implants had survived after an average of 3.5 years. Of those that failed, the average failure time was 14.4 months and the main reason for failure was movement of the implant.
Compare this to average survival rates of 95.4% after 10 years for traditional implants, and you can see that minis are some way behind.
Mini implant procedure
In order to determine whether a patient can have mini implants for dentures or crowns, a panoramic x-ray is taken. It might also be necessary to perform a Cone Beam CT scan, especially in cases where the patient has an exceptionally narrow ridge.
Once eligibility has been verified, it’s time to go in for the procedure.
The mini implant placement procedure is considered to be minimally invasive surgery. A typical mini dental implant procedure, where 4-6 implants are placed in the patient’s lower arch, usually takes around an hour. The general steps for the placement procedure are as follows:
- Anaesthetic is administered
- Holes are drilled in the bone at implant placement sites
- Each implant is screwed into place and tightened with a ratchet
This animation from Straumann, a leading manufacturer of implants, shows how this procedure looks in practice:
A temporary crown or denture can often be placed immediately, especially in the case of full mouth restorations. Because the bone and gum can change shape in the months after an implant is placed, a permanent prosthesis is fitted later on.
For a day or two following your mini tooth implant placement you will need to eat soft foods and take care to keep the implant site clean. Follow your dentist's advice on caring for your mouth and implants after placement.
Benefits of mini implants
Mini implants have their pros and cons, just like any treatment option for replacing teeth. Some of their advantages include:
Versus regular implants…
- No complex flap surgery
- No need for bone grafts before the procedure
- May avoid sinus lift costs
- Less invasive
- Shorter healing time and easier recovery
- Fewer dental visits required
- More affordable
- Slows bone loss and prevents facial collapse
- More comfortable
- Longer-term solution
- No risk of slipping out while eating or talking
Mini implant complications
Although mini tooth implants are often considered to be the next best option to regular implants when it comes to replacing teeth, they still have their complications. These can include:
- Screw fracture during placement
- Screw failure due to age, smoking, oral hygiene, bone thickness, insertion method, etc.
- The need for multiple implants
- Limited scientific evidence about long-term survival
You can talk to your dentist about any worries you have regarding complications.
What do mini dental implants cost in the UK?
It will depend on the placement and size. The average cost of mini dental implants in the UK is £400-£1,500, depending on how many are being placed and in which jaw. A single jaw can cost £1,500 – £5,000, plus an extra £500 – £1,000 for an overdenture fitted on top.
This is much less than traditional implants, which often cost £2,300 or more for a single tooth. The main reason that mini dental implants cost less is because it doesn't take as much titanium and other materials to make each one. The placement procedure is also quicker and more straightforward, which helps keep the cost lower.
With the potential to save hundreds or thousands of pounds, you can see why so many people are tempted by minis despite the greater potential for complications. Check out some other ways to save on dental implants.
Can you get mini implants on the NHS?
The NHS only subsidises dentistry procedures which are considered medically necessary. Occasionally this includes implants, but most people will be offered NHS dentures as a way to replace missing teeth.
Patients with medical conditions that cause bone loss might be eligible for NHS implants, and if mini implants are deemed the most appropriate treatment, they will be provided on the NHS. You can read more about the criteria and charges for NHS dental treatment in our separate guide.
Other ways to reduce implant costs
With the costs of private dentistry in the UK so high, many people are turning to dentists in other countries to save money on dental work. Turkey and Hungary are two of the most popular destinations, where treatments cost 50-70% less than in the UK but quality is just as good – as long as you pick a reputable dentist.
You may not be able to get mini dental implants abroad very easily, but you can get regular implants for under £1,000 in Turkey.
It’s good to know your options when it comes to filling those gaps in your smile, and for some patients, mini dental implants may be the best option. You should consider them if you can’t get replacement teeth with regular implants, either due to cost, available space, or bone health.
There isn’t as much data on the longevity and success of these implants as there is for normal implants, but it’s generally thought that traditional implants are the better option. However, if it’s between mini implants and another option like dentures, bridges or not replacing them at all, your dentist may advise you that any kind of implant is better than none in terms of your long-term oral health.
Have a look at the following table for a recap of the pros and cons of mini dental implants and ask your dentist if they are the best option for you.
Cheaper than standard implants
Can be used in patients who've experienced bone deterioration
Can break under pressure more easily than normal implants
Slow further bone deterioration
Help maintain facial structure
Are mini implants permanent?
Mini implants, although sometimes used as a temporary solution, are generally a permanent solution to replace missing teeth. They may not last as long as regular implants, though.
The longevity of your mini dental implants will depend on how you care for them, your bone health and your general oral health. However, they are more prone to fracturing than regular implants, in which case they’ll need to be replaced.
How long do mini dental implants take to heal?
Any swelling from the surgery should go down within 48 hours, and after 7 days the gums should be mostly healed. If you have multiple implants placed, healing time may be a little longer.
Keep in mind that each body is different, and the time you will need to heal after getting your mini implants placed will depend on a number of factors, including your overall health. If there were any complications during the procedure, recovery may take a little longer.
What is the difference between a dental implant and a mini implant?
The main differences between dental implants and mini implants are design, size, and indications for use. There is also often a significant difference in price.
- Size: A mini implant is less than 3.3mm in diameter (and usually less than 3) while a normal implant is 3.4 to 5.8mm in diameter.
- Design: Mini implants consist of a post with a small ball at the end where the denture attaches. A rubber O-ring then secures it into place. A regular implant consists of a post with an abutment attached to it. The crown then is attached to the abutment.
- Indications: Mini implants are mostly meant for patients who have experienced bone deterioration and can’t have regular implants placed.
Japanese Dental Science Review: Risks and complications of miniscrew anchorage in clinical orthodontics. Consulted 16th January 2020.
NCBI: Dental, Mini-Implants. Consulted 16th January 2020.
Journal of Oral Implantology: The Mini Dental Implant in Fixed and Removable Prosthetics: A Review. Consulted 4th March 2020.
Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry: Mini Dental Implants: A Retrospective Analysis of 5640 Implants Placed Over a 12-Year Period. Consulted 4th March 2020.
Dentistry.co.uk: Risk factors of dental implant failure. Consulted 4th March 2020.