If you have or are ever to lose one or more teeth, it is likely that you wish to replace them.
Of course it is not possible to replace them with natural teeth, so the choice is prosthetic (artificial) teeth, most notably dentures.
Fantastic creations they have improved the lives of millions that wear one each day.
However, they are not perfect for all.
Our complete guide to false teeth goes into more detail, but ultimately they require regular replacement and are not always the best fit.
Therefore many turn to dental implants, which is really considered the gold standard for tooth replacement.
The major downside is that traditional dental implants involve quite a bit of surgery, healing time and are expensive. They are too, not suitable for all, particularly those who have limited bone structure.
This is where mini and midi implants come in.
What is a mini dental implant?
A mini implant is an artificial tooth root, just like a traditional dental implant.
A man made component, the titanium alloy implant is surgically placed into the jawbone of the mouth and forms the basis to which attachments, be that an artificial tooth or dentures attach to.
The big difference however, is that it is not as wide as a regular implant and subsequently means it involves less surgery and is better suited to some patients.
A mini implant is 1.8-3.3mm (think toothpick) compared to a traditional implant at 4.3-6mm.
The line between mini and standard implant is a little blurred and the classification of size does vary slightly. But generally a mini implant is considerably thinner.
The following video, gives a quick explanation.
What is a midi implant?
A midi implant is essentially the same as a mini implant, but is slightly wider, fitting between a mini and normal sized implant.
It offers a larger surface area than mini implants, with a more substantial post to support fixed crowns.
Whilst the exact specifications may vary between manufacturers of the implants, a mini implant will have a diameter of around 1.8-3.3mm, whilst the larger midi implants have diameters of 3.30-4.30mm.
Both mini and midi implants act in the same way and come in a variety of lengths too.
The midi implant gives another option to dental professionals in order to be able to cater to the different clinical scenarios they are faced with.
What is a mini implant used for?
Acting as an alternative to the natural root of your tooth, a mini or midi implant can be used as an anchoring point for one or more artificial teeth.
Whilst it is perfectly possible to fit a crown (single artificial tooth) or bridge (a row of 2-4 artificial teeth) to a mini implant, it is less common.
In the instances where used to replace a single tooth, these are normally front teeth or premolars that do not endure the same stress levels as teeth like molars that chew food.
Mini implants are most commonly used and have the highest success rate, when used as a mechanism for providing a more secure fitting denture.
One of the biggest complaints about dentures is how they can slip, particularly when eating.
Using an implant to retain and essentially hold the denture in place allows those with implant retained dentures to eat and live life more confidently as they are less likely to move.
It is worth noting an implant may be used as a temporary measure within orthodontics. They are referred to here often as TAD’s, which is short for Temporary Anchorage Devices and are used to help align teeth.
Who can have mini implants?
If you are aged 18 or over and wishing to replace a missing tooth with use of an artificial root, you are a potential candidate for mini or midi implants.
As with normal dental implants there are a few factors to consider.
- Bone (your jaw)
One of the major benefits of mini implants is that they require less bone structure than traditional implants, this is the very reason they exist.
However, there still needs to be a certain amount of bone for the implant to be fixed into.
The dental professional will make such assessments, but the mini implants do allow for more flexibility and often means those who would normally not be suitable for traditional implants will be for mini ones.
You may well have lost teeth through no fault of your own, be that disease or an accident, but as part of assessing your suitability, your general health does need to be considered.
Although less bone is required, is there enough of it? Do you suffer from conditions such as Osteoporosis or haemophilia that could affect the treatment.
- Oral health
Although implants are artificial, they still require maintenance in order to function correctly over the years.
You still have to look after the implants and the artificial teeth that sit on top of them properly.
If your cause of tooth loss was poor oral hygiene, you may not be considered suitable as you have not shown sufficient care.
Your gums and bone need to remain as healthy as possible for the implants to remain fixed and keep any denture supported.
Smoking and evidence of poor dental attendance may lead to a failure of an implant.
Mini implants and dentures – The best balance
Dentures have been around for a long time and are the go to option for replacing missing teeth.
Stereotypical images are of bulky and uncomfortable false teeth, but they really a thing of the past.
Advances in materials, design and technology allow now for much slimmer fitting and more comfortable options. Take a look at our guide to false teeth, to see the options you have available, but it is never a one-size-fits-all
Over time your gums change and the denture does not fit as well.
The poor fitting can make eating and even speaking more difficult. Denture wearers may get a whistling sound when speaking, they may be uncomfortable and slip when eating, particularly harder foods. This affects confidence and happiness with wearing such. In these instances many turn to sealants to help get a good fit and prolong having to replace the denture.
Implants have been widely used since the 1980’s, but it is within the last couple of decades that mini implants have become more popular alternatives.
Mini implants are now considered by most as one of the best options to achieve a balance between a full set of implants and dentures.
Modifications made to a denture allow for it to clip onto implants and be retained in a way that suction and sealants cannot achieve, overcoming the common problems for denture wearers.
The bonding that comes from an implant with a denture gives a security worth paying.
Particularly popular in the older generation where dentures are most common, the more cost sensitive and gentle surgery is an option that is generally widely welcomed by those who desire the extra confidence implants bring.
Please note – Given that mini implants are best suited to use as a way of retaining a denture, the remainder of this article considers mini implants primarily from the perspective of an existing denture wearer.
Advantages and disadvantages of mini dental implants
Here are a list of what can be considered the main advantages and disadvantages to using mini dental implants.
- Cost – 50-60% cheaper than traditional implants.
- Suitability – An option for those less suitable or not wishing to opt for full dental implants.
- Permanent – When looked after correctly, they can last for a good couple of decades (Dentures still required periodic replacement).
- Versatile – Mini implants can be used to replace, 1, 2 or more teeth, but are best suited as a means of retaining a denture.
- Restore confidence – The securer fit of a denture or replacing a missing tooth can restore confidence lost by a gap or a poor fitting prosthetic.
- No issues with speech – The fitting is so good that you don’t get the whistle or difficulties speaking that you might with typical dentures.
- Allow normal eating – Eat foods you would have or do with normal teeth, no special diet required (once treatment is complete).
- No adhesives required – Dentures sit firmly in the mouth, securely in place, no more adhesive paste.
- Restores taste – Dentures can be adapted to give back a larger palette in the mouth, allowing for you to taste more of your food.
- Less surgery – The process to fit is less intrusive and quicker. As such it is often more suitable for those wary of or more sensitive to more invasive surgery.
Of course it is not all positives, there are some negatives to consider too.
- Price – Still a fairly sizeable investment for most. Private treatment required.
- Upkeep – You treat them like regular teeth, to brushing, flossing, dental checkups are all still necessary.
- Strength – Do not give the same strength as regular implants.
- Suitability – Fewer instances where a mini implant will be used to replace a single tooth.
- Versatility – Not as versatile as regular implants, where different abutments can be fitted.
- Replacement dentures – You will still need to replace the denture periodically.
- Surgery – Whilst relatively routine, it requires anesthetic and will cause some discomfort and healing time.
- Complications and failure – Implants do not work for all, not all implants will fuse with the jaw bone and be the success hoped for.
What’s the difference between a mini and traditional dental implant? (Mini vs standard implant)
The major differences as as follows:
Mini implants are cheaper typically 50-60% less than regular dental implants.
There are a number of reasons behind this but primarily it is because less surgery is involved, requiring less time from dental professionals and associated personnel which incur the greatest cost.
Although used most typically for retaining a denture, which in itself has a cost to be produced, they can be manufactured and custom fitted with more ease and as a result with less cost in comparison to the individual crowns or bridges that are used with traditional implants.
With mini implants, the process of fitting is much simpler and in turn quicker than regular implants.
In most cases mini implants are inserted and the artificial teeth fitted the same day. Healing , particularly at the gum is typically complete within about a month, although it does take several months for the jaw to properly fuse with the implant.
Traditional implants are fitted then need 3-6 months for healing to take place before having abutments and teeth fitted, taking the whole process up to 9 months on average.
The implant that goes into the jawbone is not as wide as a regular implant.
Around 1.8-3.3mm in comparison to 4.3-6mm of a regular implant it is easier to place, as a result, less surgery required.
Both require the bone to fuse to the implant to be considered a success.
The lesser size does too mean mini implants are better suited to those with lesser bone density that would not be suitable for regular implants.
Those not suitable for regular implants are more likely to be suitable for mini implants because they can fit into lesser bone structures.
The older generation in particular are better suited to mini implants, as age, health and bone condition are favorable for retaining what tends to be a larger or full arch prosthetic.
Mini implants are not as versatile as regular implants, because the abutment (the connector between the implant and denture) is normally pre-fitted to the implant and cannot be removed.
Traditional implants have removable and replaceable abutments that can be changed as and when necessary.
Implants certainly help retain any denture better than natural suction or with the help of a sealant, because there is the physical connection between the various parts that add strength and stability.
However, because the surface area of the implant is less the strength is not as great as a traditional implant.
They are perfectly fine for most day to day living scenarios, particularly when a full denture is worn as stresses are passed through this and not straight to the implant.
Certain clinical conditions may mean that a regular implant is better, most notably when 1 or 2 teeth need replacing or when replacing larger functional teeth like molars.
What are mini implants made of?
Mini and midi implants, like traditional dental implants are made up primarily of Titanium.
Mixed with other metals a Titanium alloy is created to produce a strong and reliable fitting that will last for several decades if maintained correctly.
This alloy makeup has been successfully proven over many years to be accepted by the body with few exceptions and fuse nicely with the jawbone.
Zirconia is another option for those who desire such, but costs and suitability may be affected.
The procedure of getting a mini dental implant
The biggest appeal of mini implants is the length of the procedure and the healing time. It is much quicker than that of regular implants. You can pretty much have an implant and artificial tooth fitted the same day, no weeks or months of waiting.
However, whilst the actual time period is different, there are some similarities in the procedure.
Within this time period you have 3 main phases.
- Consultation and preparation
- Placing the implants
- Fitting the implant retained denture or crown
Please note that individual circumstances may result in extra work being carried out.
Consultation and preparation
It is essential that before placing any implants, the implantologist undertakes a thorough examination and consultation with you.
The intention here is to make sure that what you desire is achievable and that you are a suitable candidate for the procedure.
Expect to have the dentist physically examine your mouth, teeth and existing denture (if applicable).
X-Rays and a a Computer Tomography (CT) scan will also be carried out in most instances.
Using these technologies, the dental professional is taking a medical viewpoint of your teeth, jaw and overall health to not only assess your suitability, but decide what sizes of implants and the locations that would be necessary to complete the procedure successfully.
As part of this consultation, you will discuss the steps involved, the costs and be made aware of the pros and cons.
You and the dentist should come away from the consultation informed and clear of the actions required.
Placing the implant
It is at this stage of the treatment that the biggest gains are achieved.
Mini implants do have to be placed in the jaw, but the surgery is not as extensive and can be completed much quicker.
Without getting too graphic, local anaesthetic will be used to numb the area set to have the implant place.
Once you as the patient are ready, the dentist will punch through the gum tissue and then create a pilot hole into which the implant will be seated.
This pilot hole helps position the implant and allow it to latch in place.
It will then be hand screwed in place, until in the final stages it will be precisely tightened using specialist wrenches and tightening tools.
The number of implants depend on your particular circumstances. If being used to replace a single tooth, then just 1 implant will be placed. 2 might be used if replacing 2-4 teeth in a row.
When using mini implants to retain a denture, 4 implants will usually be placed into the bottom jawbone and 6 on the upper. Exact positions vary patient to patient.
In the case of regular implants, the whole replacement tooth is made up of 3 parts, the implant, the abutment and the crown. It is at this stage the implant is fitted and later the abutment, which acts as the connector between artificial tooth root and the crown.
With a mini or midi implant, the abutment is generally built into the implant and is not separate.
Typically, the shape of the abutment on a mini implant is round, like a ball as this is a great option for allowing dentures to clip on and off.
However, the shape may differ if having a crown or bridge, to give sufficient surface area for the artificial teeth to be stuck too.
You can expect this procedure to take less than an hour. The most skilled professionals can place the implants within a matter of minutes.
Fitting the implant retained denture or crown
In most cases, within minutes of placing the implant into the jaw, the prosthetic teeth will be fitted to that implant.
If a crown or bridge is being placed, it is likely that molds or designs will have been taken prior to the surgery so that these can be made ready for your treatment.
The same can be said for new denture wearers.
Existing denture wearers, will have their denture modified there and then.
Special molds will be used to give the dentist the exact information required to then modify the denture and fit metal clips into.
The metal fittings with the denture has a rubber O-ring that attaches to the post (implant) that has been fitted.
It is the fitting of these metal attachments into the denture that then allows the prosthetic to fit perfectly on the new implants and be a tighter and more comfortable fit for the wearer. It also allows for simple, snap on and off fitting.
Another big draw and benefit to the mini implants is recovery time.
As the surgery does not involve extensive drilling of the bone, within about a month your gum and surrounding tissue will have fully healed.
After the initial placement of implant you can expect:
- Swollen gums and face
- Bruised gums and skin
- Pain and discomfort around the area of the implant
- Slight bleeding
Prior to and after the procedure, any reputable implantologist will give you all the essential care tips and advice you need to ensure a speedy recovery.
Given that you will have had an anesthetic to numb the mouth during the placing of the implants, this will wear off within a couple of hours.
As a result you can expect for the first 24-72 hours some slight discomfort in and around the area where the implants have been placed.
There may will be a bit or bruising, a bit of swelling and slight bleeding, but this will all ease.
Within 3-7 days most people feel pretty much ‘normal’ again.
If you wish to help ease the pain, over the counter pain medication can often ease the discomfort. Speak to a pharmacist or your dentist for advice.
The gums will take 2-4 weeks to heal fully. If you are experiencing any additional pain during this time you should speak to a professional.
During the first week of healing, it is advised to eat softer foods so as not to put too much pressure on the gums.
Within a month or so, you should be able to return to eating all the foods you enjoy, or some you didn’t because you felt uncomfortable eating them before.
Under the gumline the implant will slowly fuse with the bone. This can take up to several months to fully fuse and for the implant to be considered a success. Although it may take up to 3 months on average to fully heal within the bone, it should not affect day to day life.
Choosing a dentist/implantologist/prosthodontist
Under the framework set out by the General Dental Council (GDC) there are 13 different classifications for specialisation.
Implants falls under the category of prosthodontics.
Therefore, when looking to get implants, you need to look for a professional that is trained in this field. They are often titled prosthodontist or implantologist.
Under the rulings that are set out by the GDC to ensure fair and correct practice amongst dental professionals, the dentists must have the right training for any procedure they carry out. This means unless trained in placing implants, they should not actually offer to do them for you.
Make sure you pick a qualified implantologist. Never be afraid to ask to proof of their training and experience.
You need to be happy with the professional that carries out the work for you. Do not commit to any surgery unless you are satisfied with the process, the cost and who will actually do the work.
Research the dentist, their practice, speak to others, particularly those who have had the procedure.
Mini Implant Costs
As options go for replacing lost teeth, any form of implant is not cheap.
The most cost effective option is a denture.
However, mini or midi implants are significantly cheaper than traditional implants and offer a balance between the benefits they bring and the cost associated.
The final cost you will be expected to pay will depend on what work is necessary prior to the implants being placed, whether you require crowns or dentures and where abouts you get the treatment completed.
As a general rule you can expect to pay 50-60% less than a traditional implant.
For a single implant, costs of £500-1500 should be expected.
If having multiple implants, subject to the dental surgery’s pricing structure there may well be a cost saving.
If you have your own denture already and require 4 implants to retain it on the lower arch, a price of around £4000 (£1000 per implant) is a rough estimation of the cost.
Implants in the upper jaw do tend to be a bit more expensive.
With few exceptions, implants (of any kind) are not available on the NHS.
You should shop around for your implants and get quotations from around 3 specialists before making your decision.
Not only will this give you a better idea of how comparable the costs are, but also allow you time to assess the different professionals and their practices to find one you are most comfortable with.
Although cheaper than regular implants, it is still a sizeable amount of money to spend and you want to ensure you spend that money wisely.
Before agreeing to any dental work, you need to make sure you understand what is involved and the costs.
The initial consultation should highlight all you need to know, but every dental surgery will break the costs down differently, make sure you are aware of what is and is not included.
Unlike a checkup that might be covered on the NHS, you need to pay for this specialist treatment.
If you can pay with cash you have available, great, but this might not be an option for all.
Many practices offer payment plans, often managed by external finance companies. Some of the deals available can be favourable.
Look ideally for those that have 0% or low interest rates, as you don’t want to pay more than you need to.
The quality of the offer can vary considerably and may well be influenced by your credit history, as credit checks will be completed.
Be sure to research and understand any payment plan contract before signing it.
Mini implants – A patients perspective
What better way to get an idea of mini implants than hearing it from someone who has been through the process.
The following video is from an American citizen who has had mini implants and share some of her key learnings from having been through the process.
Mini and midi implants are innovative options for denture wearers that want the primary benefit of stability, but cannot justify the cost or are not suitable for regular implant surgery.
As this article has identified, mini implants are still not suitable for all and whilst they bring some advantages there are too disadvantages.
You should weigh up the pros and cons and get the opinion of professionals to come to a decision that is right for you.
For older patients in particular where bone density and price might well be an issue they are a great option.
Having dental implants can transform the lives of those who go through with the treatment, might you be the next to benefit?
Your comments and opinions
If you should have any questions you would like answered or comments and opinion you would like to share, please do so, by using the form below.
Should you have mini implants yourself, your insight can be valuable for others who are considering getting them too.
- Osteo Care
- Cosmetic Dentistry Guide
- Dental Departures
- Mini Dental Implant Centres of America
- Dental Concepts
- Ace Dental Resource
- Basic Dental Implants
- British Orthodontic Society