Titanium has been the biomedical metal of choice for decades now due to its high biocompatibility and resistance to corrosion from the harsh fluids found in the body. It’s typically used in everything from prosthetics to pacemakers — and yes, it’s used in dental implants.
In most cases, titanium is effective and safe as a dental implant. However, research has shown that a small percentage of people have an allergy to titanium. Additionally, incidences of titanium sensitivity are becoming more prevalent as the use of titanium in dental work is becoming more common. Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware of their allergy until they’ve already gotten a titanium implant, leading to unpleasant symptoms and impaired healing or even rejection of the implant.
Before getting dental implants, you should be fully informed on titanium allergies and the possibility that they may affect you.
Do You Have a Titanium Allergy?
It would be beneficial to determine whether or not you have a titanium allergy previous to getting titanium implants. Some research has shown that people with a history of allergies to other metals and reactions to jewelry have a higher risk of having a reaction to their implant. If you or anyone in your family has experienced metal allergy symptoms before, you should consider having a metal allergy test or assessment before getting an implant, just to be safe.
Unfortunately, there is currently no reliable patch test for titanium allergies, although scientists are working to develop one. The memory lymphocyte immuno-stimulation assay test, known as the MELISA test, was developed to identify titanium and other metal allergies, and has been shown to detect sensitivity to titanium. However, it has been criticized by some as lacking specificity. A blood test can effectively identify a type IV allergy to titanium, but would not be helpful in identifying other types of titanium allergies.
Despite the lack of one consistent, reliable test for a titanium allergy, it may still be a good idea to undergo testing if you think you are at higher risk of an allergy.
Post-Implant Signs of a Titanium Allergy
Due to the lack of an easy test for a titanium allergy, many patients will not recognize that they have an allergy until their implant is already done. Symptoms that point to a titanium allergy post-implant may include:
- Pain or weakening of implants
- Implant failure
- Rash or hives
- Facial swelling or reddening
Unfortunately, discovering that you have a titanium allergy once you have already had titanium implants installed in your mouth is not the order most people would prefer! If you suspect you may have a titanium allergy or are just concerned about the potential impact of realizing too late that you have one, metal-free implants may be your best option. This is something to consider if you have other metal allergies.
Zirconia dental implants have a handful of benefits over titanium implants, and have an equally high success rate as their metal counterparts. Some people, particularly those with especially translucent gums, may find that metal implants give their gums a grey cast. Zirconia implants give a more attractive appearance similar to natural tooth roots. There’s even a possibility that zirconia implants will osseointegrate more effectively than titanium, due to being a ceramic.