It is typically found in rock and sand deposits, from which it is mined and refined. The few byproducts and waste materials that are produced during the refining process are naturally common in typical beach sand. As such, disposal is generally cheap and easy with virtually no environmental impact.
Although zirconium is not as prevalent in mainstream vernacular as its cousin, titanium, its many virtues as a manufacturing material has caused its use to become rather widespread over the last 90 years.
The applications don’t stop there. Zirconium derived materials are used in a variety of spacecraft. The stable electron configuration is yet another reason widely used as a refractory for purposes of metallurgy.
Zirconium is also used in the positron emission tomography imaging process. Commonly known as PET scanning, this technology is at the cutting edge of cancer diagnosis and treatment today. This is not zirconium dioxide’s first application in the medical field, however.
As mentioned, zirconium is exceptionally inert to both organic and inorganic compounds. This makes it an especially biocompatible element. In fact, trace amounts or zirconium can be found in all biological systems. For decades now, zirconia ceramics have been used as surgical prosthetics. This is especially true in the field of dental implants, where ceramic zirconia tooth implants are now widely regarded as the highest available standard of care.
The abundant availability of zirconium, along with its environmental and biological inertness, indicate that its use in modern products and technology is not likely to wane anytime in the foreseeable future. In fact, the unique physical and chemical properties of zirconia combine with mechanical durability to suggest that we have only begun to scratch the surface of technological applications for this benevolent element.
A great professor and mentor Dr. Alejandro Kleinman is retiring from Loma Linda University’s Graduate Program in Implant Dentistry. Prof. Kleinman was instrumental in Dr. Noumbissi’s decision and selection to attend the program in 1999. In his honor the Robert A. James Society of Implant Dentistry is hosting an Implant Dentistry Alumni Symposium that will take place at Loma Linda University in the Randall’s Visitor Center on Monday June 9, 2014. Dr. Noumbissi was invited and accepted to speak at this event along with other graduates of the program.
Under the leadership of its founding president Dr. Sammy Noumbissi, the International Academy of Ceramic Implantology (IAOCI) held its winter congress in Miami, on January 24 and 25, 2014 . In attendance were delegates from 11 states in the USA, the UK, France, Japan, Germany, Spain, Jamaica, Canada, and Switzerland!
Our world-renowned and expert speakers included Drs. Elizabeth Valentine-Thon, Dan Hagi, Josep Oliva, Sammy Noumbissi, Andrea Mombelli, Stephen Evans, Ralf Luettmann, Judson Wall, Noriaki Honma, Mr. Taylor Hunter from Aurum Dental Laboratories and Mr. Jared Young from Big Diastema Marketing.
We want to thank Z-Systems USA, Ceraroot Implants, Aurum Dental Laboratories, Albensi Dental Laboratories, Zeramex Ceramic Implants, Lasers for Dentistry, Healthier Smiles Dental and TAV ceramic Implants for their gracious support.
This year featured one of the best curricula ever for a dental implant event and the information shared was bar-none. If you weren’t able to make it this year, you won’t want to miss next year’s event, we are now beginning to go through the 48 hours of video footage we recorded and will soon be making those DVDs available to anyone interested in learning more about Zirconia Dental implants.
Next Year’s congress will be held again in Florida during the last week of February 2015, more details to come soon!!
Thank you to Ms. Ronetta Jones who worked tirelessly to make this happen and everyone who helped make it possible!
For the last two decades, the use of dental implants as a method of teeth replacement has seen an exponential growth. The predominant material used for dental implants for the last forty plus years has been titanium and titanium alloys. Both titanium and titanium alloys are metals and with the increase in implant procedures there has been a rise in reports of sensitivity and reactions to such materials.
In the early eighties and in light of the increased reports of metal sensitivity and symptoms in people implanted with metal alloys, the search began for an alternative to metal for dental and orthopedic implants. Various materials were and continue to be tested and evaluated. With regards to dental implantology following in the footsteps of medical orthopedics twenty five years prior, zirconia aka zirconium dioxide is now a reliable and acceptable non-metal material for dental implantation. Zirconia is also used to make metal free crowns and bridges in restorative dentistry and dental laboratories in the United States have reported an exponential rise in the use of zirconia by dentists in the last ten years especially on posterior teeth of bruxers. Today zirconia has emerged as a truly biocompatible and most importantly bio-inert implant material in dentistry. Contrary to popular belief both among many clinicians and the public, zirconia is not a metal and not prone to breakage and fracture. Zirconia is the crystal form of the metal zirconium just like alumina is for aluminum. As a matter of fact if you look at the periodic table of elements in chemistry below, zirconium, aluminum and even titanium are in a group called transition metals (second row and second column in the yellow area), however the titanium used to make implants is used in its metal phase . That means that after extraction from the earth, upon certain specific, highly sophisticated and complex treatment such as Yttria stabilization and transformation protocols such as HIP (Hot Isostatic Press), zirconium is converted into its crystal phase which is non-metal and ceramic. Therefore the ceramic phase of the transitional metal zirconium is zirconia which is also called zirconium dioxide and used to manufacture bio-inert, biocompatible and structurally stable zirconia dental implants.
This article was written by Dr. Noumbissi and published in the January 2013 edition (International Section) for the Orofacial Chronicle Journal from Bhopal, India.
Since Dr. Brånemark first introduced titanium dental implants, a variety of materials have been used successfully for about 40 years. Today implants are made either of commercially pure titanium (cpTi) or titanium alloys. In addition to its biocompatibility, titanium was also initially believed to be inert, nontoxic and nonallergenic1,2. However, several drawbacks have been documented in the literature with the use of titanium and titanium alloys as implant materials in medicine and dentistry. High concentrations of titanium have been detected in tissue surrounding dental implants mostly as a result of wear or corrosion of the titanium implant surface. In an animal study Weingart et al.3 showed that nine months after titanium implantation, titanium particles had spread and were found in adjacent lymph nodes. This indicates the possibility that phagocytes could transport titanium particles to the lymph nodes without any initial or immediate inflammatory response and potentially cause later immunologic reactions.
An increasing number of people who suffer some form tooth loss are choosing to replace their teeth with dental implants. For the last thirty plus years the only and highly successful option for freestanding tooth replacement available in the United States and other countries has been titanium and titanium alloy dental implants. There are increasing reports both in dentistry and medicine of individuals developing sensitivity and allergies to titanium and/or titanium alloys. Even of more concern some of these implants are corroding once exposed to body fluids such as saliva and developing electrical activity when they are coupled with prosthetic components made of other metal alloys. Titanium implants as they corrode are known to release metal ions which create low level electrical currents through the body but also weakens the structural integrity of the implants. With recent advances in implantable biomaterials research and technology, bioceramics such as zirconia (zirconium dioxide) are now available and a new generation of modern implants is made of zirconia. Zirconium Silicate (ZrSO4) is mined and is treated and transformed into zirconium dioxide which is also called zirconia. Zirconia is the crystal form of the material zirconium which is a transitional metal. After mining and processing of zirconium silicate, zirconium is isolated and further processed under high temperature and pressure. Zirconium then undergoes an oxidation and crystallization process which allows it to transition into a structurally stable and inert crystal. This bioceramic crystal is called Yttrium Stabilized Tetragonal Zirconium Polycrystal (Y-TZP) also called zirconium dioxide. Therefore zirconium dioxide is not a metal and presents exceptional physical and biological properties. Zirconia can sustain an extreme load capacity, features a very long service life, and presents no conductivity or interference in the body’s meridian systems; it is the most hygienic, non-electricity conducting and stable material for dental implantology and orthopedics. Zirconia implants also present no danger of corrosion, something that is often a serious problem with metal based dental implants. Corrosion of a titanium dental implant occurs when it is coupled with the metal framework or abutment of the crown which more often than not is a less noble metal or alloy than that of the titanium implant. The implant and crown assembly bathes in saliva which is an electrolyte and a good conductor of electricity; this leads to all sorts of chemical and electrical imbalances in the body and to a phenomenon called “battery mouth”. Another advantage of zirconia is its low affinity for plaque. Clinical observations and studies show that zirconia implants compared to or next to titanium implants accumulate much less plaque and allow for superior gingival health.
RADIOACTIVITY AND ZIRCONIA IMPLANTS
There is a controversial and highly misunderstood aspect of zirconium dioxide in terms of its radiological output. Zirconium Silicate (ZrSO4) depending where it is mined can be contaminated with natural radioactive isotopes including radium (226Ra) and thorium (228Th). This was a major concern in the early 1990’s because the ores selected were contaminated. Today zirconium dioxide processing plants have the technology to remove these contaminants and are able to yield and use very pure powders. For example, the radiation emitted by a 3 mol% Y2O3-ZrO2powder was the same order of magnitude as alumina powder, both of which were several orders of magnitude less than that typically measured for water, vegetables and livestock. Zirconia hip ball replacements weigh approximately 100mg and have a natural radiological output of 1mSv per year. The average weight of a zirconia dental implant is 1g, translating into a natural radiological output of roughly 0.01mSv/year. Therefore the radiation risk of zirconia bioceramics is negligible and given that the World Nuclear Association states that the typical background radiation experienced by most people in North America is 3.4mSv, there is little concern for adverse biological effects on the implant recipient.
Zirconia dental implants are a sensible and clearly a healthier alternative to conventional and titanium implant bridges, partials or Overdentures. Furthermore zirconia by virtue of its translucency and all-white color makes it the most aesthetically pleasing option available today for tooth replacement. This is a new era in implant dentistry and the science of oral implantology.
1- Rabin, Steven I., MD; Calhoun, Jason H., MD, FACS, editor: Immune Response to Implants
3- Weingart D, Steinmann S, Schili W, Strub JR, Hellerich U, Assenmacher J, Simpson J. Titanium deposition in regional lymph nodes after insertion of titanium screw implants in the maxillofacial region. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg.1994 Dec:23 (6Pt2): 450-2