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The American College of Prosthodontists estimates that around 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. Dental implants are a popular choice for replacing one or more missing or decayed teeth.

Mini dental implants are a newer type of dental implant that use a 1-piece screw a little bit smaller than 3 millimeters (mm) in diameter — a little more than 1/10 of an inch. Traditional dental implant screws are made of 2 pieces and have a diameter between 3.25 and 5 mm (about 0.12 to 0.2 inches across).

Mini dental implants are considered a good option for people who are unable to have traditional dental implants. But they’re not a good fit for all tooth loss.

Read more about the benefits, who may not be eligible, and options available for mini dental implants. Plus, learn whether or not they may be right for you.

Mini dental implants can be used to replace a single missing tooth, multiple teeth, or to stabilize dentures.

These types of implants offer many possible benefits, including:

  • Less invasive surgery. Mini dental implants can be placed using a localized anesthetic. The procedure is much less invasive than traditional dental implants and may be less painful.
  • Faster recovery time. The small size and minimally invasive procedure used to insert mini dental implants means that many people recover more quickly.
  • Lower cost. Costs for mini dental implants can vary. But they’re often less expensive than traditional dental implants.
  • Less jawbone density is needed. Traditional dental implants require a certain amount of jawbone mass to support their size. Mini implants are smaller and don’t require as much jawbone mass. This makes them a good fit for people who have lost jawbone density from tooth decay, injury, or bone loss due to conditions like osteoporosis.
  • Can be done without bone grafting. People without enough jaw mass to support traditional dental implants often need to have jawbone grafting before implants can be placed. Bone grafting can take up to a year to fully heal. Using mini dental implants can avoid the need for bone grafts.
  • Faster results. Traditional dental implants require multiple visits. This is because replacement teeth can’t be placed on traditional dental implant screws until the jaw and gums have healed. However, replacement teeth can often be placed on mini dental implants the same day as the implant procedure.
  • Can fit into smaller areas of your mouth. Mini dental implants are often a better choice to replace small teeth or fit into narrow openings, as well as for people with small jaws.
  • Less painful to place and repair. The small size of mini implants makes both placement and repairs less painful than traditional dental implants.
  • More permanent than bridges or dentures. Bridges and dentures can help people with tooth loss. But they shouldn’t be used as a substitute for permanent solutions like mini or even traditional dental implants.
  • Prevents facial collapse. A mini implant is inserted into your jawbone, allowing your teeth and jaw to maintain their previous placement and size.

Mini dental implants can provide natural-looking results

Mini implants can provide natural-looking results and improve your overall dental health. Here’s an illustration of how an implant is attached to the jawbone.

Mini dental implants aren’t for everyone, especially children or anyone whose mouth isn’t fully developed. This is because the implant can become surrounded by the bone as the bone grows — similarly to a nail in a tree.

They’re also not a good fit for people who grind their teeth.

People with certain health conditions also typically can’t receive mini dental implants, including:

Some lifestyle factors and medication can also impact your ability to get mini dental implants, including if you:

  • are a smoker
  • have limited oral hygiene
  • take any anticoagulant medications
  • take any medications that slow down bone healing
  • are receiving chemotherapy or radiation

Mini implants don’t require as much jawbone density as traditional implants, but some bone density is required. This means they might not work if you have severe decay and bone loss.

People whose gums are recessed or damaged might also be unable to support mini implants.

In many cases, mini dental implants are temporary and are not meant to be used as permanent replacements for extracted teeth.

In fact, these implants are often called temporary anchorage devices by orthodontists and have been used as a replacement for traditional headgear that many people found difficult to wear.

Mini dental implants are what’s known as immediate-loading implants. This means that the implant is placed as soon as a tooth is extracted and leaves an opening for the implant to be placed.

This quick placement can be convenient and done in the same appointment as a tooth extraction. However, it also means that they aren’t meant to last a long time in your mouth. A typical implant is meant to remain in place for only a few months to a few years at most before being removed.

The first step in the process of getting a mini dental implant is having dental X-rays done. These X-rays show the dentist exactly where the implants need to be placed.

Once the X-rays are complete, the dentist will:

  1. use a local anesthetic to numb your gums and jaw
  2. drill a small hole in your jaw
  3. place the small metal dental impact post into the hole
  4. secure and tighten the implant post
  5. attach the replacement tooth to the post
  6. ensure that the replacement tooth is properly placed and secure

Many mini implants don’t need holes to be drilled because the threads of the screw grab onto your bone. There are also no sutures or stitches required for mini implants.

The exact steps of the procedure can vary slightly, depending on your dental needs. If you need multiple mini implants, the posts might all be placed before any replacement teeth are attached.

Recovery from mini implants is typically fast and easy. Most people find that they’re able to return to their usual activities within 1 or 2 days after their mini implant dental procedure. In many cases, you likely won’t need a follow-up appointment.

You might experience some pain and soreness following the procedure. Ice or over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil), can help manage pain. In some cases, the dentist may prescribe a medication to help manage pain.

Try to avoid hard or sticky foods following your mini dental implant procedure. This will reduce the risk that the implant will loosen or be pulled out.

Eat soft foods or liquids like soup, smoothies, applesauce, and mashed potatoes as you recover. The dentist can advise you on when you can resume a varied diet again.

See a dentist or another medical professional if you experience any unexpected symptoms after the procedure, such as:

  • severe pain
  • pain that lasts for more than a few days
  • an implanted tooth that feels loose or falls out
  • numbness in your jaw

You should take care of your mini dental implants the same way you take care of your natural teeth. Without good dental hygiene, they can wear down or decay.

It’s important to brush, floss, and have regular dental check-ups to make sure your mini-implant stays intact. As long as they’re cared for, mini dental implants are meant to be a permanent solution for tooth loss.

Mini dental implants have been in use for only around 20 years. It’s too soon to know exactly how long a mini implant can last, but like other implants, they are likely to last many years before needing repairs or replacement.