The Mini Implant

Patients have been asking me about the mini implant.They have heard that it is less expensive than the standard implant. But is the mini a viable alternative to the full-sized implant?

The most popular mini implant, the MDI, is manufactured by IMTEC, a 3M Company. In 2003 the FDA approved the MDI mini implant as a long term method to stabilize dentures. The MDI implant has a narrow diameter (1.8 mm) compared to the 3.5-6 mm standard implant. The MDI implant acts like the root of a tooth with an attached ball that seats into a denture. This ball and socket stabilizes the denture.

Mini implants are also sometimes used to support crowns when there is not enough room for a standard sized implant. But this use does not have FDA approval and is still controversial. Some general dentists are placing mini implants after attending a one or two day MDI certification course. This also may not be in the patient’s best interest.

The mini implant typically costs a third of the cost of a standard implant. It is an alternative to the standard implant when cost is a major factor but you need to know that the major success of the mini implant is with the stabilization of full and partial dentures. The MDI does not have the range of use of the standard implant that can replace almost any tooth in the mouth. According to IMTEC, the MDI implant was designed as an alternative for patients who can’t tolerate the conventional implant surgery or afford the traditional implant. I haven’t been able to find comparison studies and IMTEC doesn’t claim that the MDI is as good or better than the conventional implant – just an alternative if the conventional implant is not an option for the patient.The patient needs to understand that these are not comparable products.

In a 2006 review article in the Journal of the American Dental Association, Dr. Gordon Christensen concluded that “Continuing research is needed for further verification of the acceptability of mini-implants.”  The jury is still out!

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