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Dental Implants and Metal Detectors: Will I Have Any Trouble Traveling

We all know someone who claims to set off airport alarms. Some people have no understanding of why they are a trigger, while others do, and the cause is typically medical. Artificial joints, or plates in the body, are frequently comprised of metal, which means that based on their size, they can activate alarms.

Fortunately for the countless people who pass through airport security every day, dental implants should not trigger a metal detector warning. Here’s why your airport experience should be seamless, regardless of the dental work you require.

How does a metal detector work?
Metal detectors generate an electromagnetic field that they release in pulses. Each pulse generates a return echo, which the detector interprets as no cause for alarm. However, when a metallic object enters the electromagnetic field, it interrupts the echo system. The arriving metal object generates its magnetic field, and the interruption to the typical echo pulsing causes the equipment to sound an alert. 

The reason you’re requested to remove some pieces of jewelry or metal accessories, such as belts, and run them through a secondary scanner is to avoid them causing an unwanted alarm. 

Of course, if you have metal in your body as a result of a joint replacement or another medical surgery, there is little you can do to avoid an alarm. However, airport security has special procedures in place to deal with this type of trigger.

Why are dental implants different?
Dental implants function by fusing a metal rod into the jawbone to replace the natural function of the tooth root. Over time, the jawbone grows around the rod, forming a stable and solid foundation for the new dental crown. 

The metal posts used in dental implants are typically made of titanium. However, the amount of titanium present is so little that it rarely triggers metal detector alarms. Even if you have several implants or fillings, the quantity of metal utilized in a little screw, including the abutment that connects to the crown, is extremely low. While this does not guarantee that the alarm will not sound, it reduces the likelihood.

Another explanation is that different titanium alloys produce varying intensities of magnetic fields, thus the material used in your dental implants may not be strong enough to cause an alarm. This varies depending on the type of dental work performed, including implants.

Titanium Shouldn’t Trigger Metal Detectors
The majority of metal detectors used by the TSA generate an electromagnetic field that triggers an alarm when it detects any surrounding magnetic metals. Most current dental implants are made of titanium, a nonmagnetic metal. Titanium dental implants should rarely set off metal detectors.

Do Zirconia Dental Implants Set Off Metal Detectors?
Of course, not every dental implant is made of titanium. Zirconia is becoming increasingly popular, particularly among people who are allergic or sensitive to metals. While zirconia has trace amounts of metal, it is not enough to trigger most metal detectors.

What about braces or dentures?
Much of the same information applies to braces or any other type of dental treatment. Not only are braces modest, but they are also made of lightweight metals that are unlikely to cause an alert. All other types of false teeth replacements, such as dentures and dental bridges, use very little amounts of metal, if any.

Full-Body Scanners & Dental Implants
Today, several airports in the United States use full-body scanners instead of traditional metal detectors. These devices often use radio waves or low-level radiation, similar to X-rays. Both types of scanners may detect dental implants, but TSA officers are unlikely to discuss them. After all, millions of people have had their teeth replaced in this manner, and there is rarely a valid justification to subject someone to additional screening.

A Note About Traveling Internationally with Dental Implants
Airports around the world may have varying security measures. They may have more advanced metal detectors that trigger an alarm when they detect dental implants. However, you should be able to pass through security rather quickly if you calmly explain why you have the implants and comply with the rest of the screening process.

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