The TRUTH About Dental Implants – Here’s why they might not be suitable for you
Dental implants in Singapore
Dental implant procedures have around a 95% success rate after adequate healing time has passed. At first glance that sounds great. But keep in mind this statistic comes from patients who have first been approved for dental implants after thorough checks of their suitability.
Therefore, this figure doesn’t cover the whole population. Not everybody is a suitable candidate, for a variety of reasons that will be explained here.
Dental implants have become very popular as a modern alternative to dentures. As they are fixed in place they feel like your own teeth, and this gives patients a confidence boost, as well as many other improvements in their daily lives.
When an area of your jaw is no longer supporting a tooth, it lacks stimulation from the tooth root. This leads to a weakening of the jawbone in that area. As dental implants bridge the gap of a lost tooth and root, they help to protect and preserve the jawbone, as well as the surrounding teeth and gums.
Having implants fixed in place can improve your appearance not only by repairing your smile, but because the new teeth support your facial structure. This also aids eating, speech, and your general oral health.
What are dental implants?
The long-term & effective solution for replacing missing teeth.
Dental implants are a long-term solution to missing teeth. When an adult tooth is lost, the area of jawbone that held the tooth begins to deteriorate. In preparation for a dental implant, a bone grafting procedure is typically done first. If all goes well, the bone graft and implant can last for a lifetime.
Dental implants are permanently situated in your mouth, so unlike dentures, they stay in place just like your own teeth. The root of the tooth is replaced by a screw, which becomes the artificial root. The screw sits in the jawbone and fuses with your jawbone, helped by the bone graft procedure.
There are different types of bone graft procedure available, depending on your needs. And there are also different approaches to the dental implants themselves, with the option for mini implants where standard ones can’t fit.
Are dental implants for me?
If you have missing teeth but are generally healthy, then that is a great starting point. You also need to be old enough that your jawbone has stopped growing, so this is not suitable for teenagers. Generally speaking, the jawbone stops growing in the early twenties for males, and in the late teens for females.
Ultimately you will need to consult with your dentist to be sure. There are some checks we need to do. Your dentist will carry out an examination of your tooth and gum health. They will also x-ray your jaw to check that you have sufficient bone density to support dental implants. You may also have a CT scan for the same reason.
A general medical history will be taken from you too, as there are some health conditions that affect suitability for this type of dental work. Generally speaking, your dentist needs to be confident that your mouth will heal well, so that you avoid infection and other complications.
Who are dental implants not suitable for?
Apart from teenagers or very young adults who can expect further jawbone growth, there are other reasons that dental implants may not be suited to you. There are some medical conditions that may not completely rule you out, but are a cause for further discussion.
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Severe gingivitis
- Suppressed immunity
- Osteonecrosis of the jaw
The last point, osteonecrosis, is a rare condition caused by taking a class of prescription drugs known as Biphosphonates.
This medication is taken for osteoporosis, and may come under the following names:
If you are taking any of these then you should discuss this is detail with your dentist. These drugs work by preventing osteoclast cells destroying bone, which is part of the treatment for osteoporosis. But inhibiting the osteoclasts also affects the matrix of the bone, which can lead to osteonecrosis of the jaw. This is also known as ‘death of the jawbone’. According to Singapore Medical Journal, the risk is greater amongst ageing populations, as we have here in Singapore. While the overall occurrence of this rare, it is always worth keeping your dentist informed if you are prescribed this type of medication.
Healing is a main consideration
Suitability is also affected by smoking, teeth grinding or exposure to radiation around the jaw area.
The bottom line is these factors all influence how your body heals. Receiving dental implants first relies on your body integrating your bone grafts, and then on your jaw being strong enough to support the titanium implant screw for each implant.
It is also imperative that your gums heal well, as weakness in the seal around your new implant can lead to infection. This is why gingivitis is a risk factor. It is also partly why grinding can be a problem, as the teeth need to be still for your mouth to heal fully.
Another reason that tooth grinding hinders success is that movement slows down the osseointegration. This is the process of the bone fusing with the implant and forming a permanent attachment.
Are dental implants right for me?
As mentioned, your dentist will need to take your medical history. Then x-rays and possibly a CT scan will be a part of the assessment process.
You need to have enough bone density for dental implants to take successfully. The bone-grafting step of the procedure certainly helps with this. But some candidates will not have enough bone density even with bone grafting factored in.
You also need to be in good enough health for your dentist to be confident that you will heal well and not be at risk of infection down the track.
The process of receiving dental implants
Your dentist will run you through the treatment options available to you. But keep in mind that receiving dental implants is a two-step process that takes time to complete. This is not something you can rush through quickly.
The first step is receiving your bone graft, in order to give the implants a healthy foundation to settle into. After your bone grafting is done, you will need between 4 and 5 months to heal. This does depend on the type of bone graft.
Once you are healed, your second step is to receive the dental implants. Again, healing takes time, and you will need to follow aftercare protocol. Having the dental implants put in is a surgical procedure, so some self-care and rest in the days after is important.
Expect to be on a diet of soft food for at least 24 hours. Swelling and post-surgery discomfort is likely to be present for up to 4 days.
Knowing if it is right for you will come down to a few things. Your dentist can tell you if it is a good option for you, and if you meet the requirements in terms of your health and ability to heal. Then it is down to you to decide.
Besides the two-part procedure and the healing time after each, there is also the financial investment to consider. The first step, your dental bone graft procedure, costs from $800 upwards, depending on the type of procedure you need.
At the top end of the pricing scale, a bone graft with a sinus lift can cost $3500. Then add to that a further cost from $2450 for the dental implants.
However, the good news is that dental implants are something that can be claimed for through MediSave in Singapore. See more about pricing here.
What’s the worst-case scenario?
A worst-case scenario would be an infection taking hold in your jawbone post-surgery. In the very worst of circumstances, it could lead to the implants not taking well and possibly needing to be removed for the infection to heal.
A serious infection could not only cost you your implants, but it could affect your overall health too. So this is not a decision to be made lightly, and aftercare is to be taken seriously.
With that said, serious post-surgical infection is rare. In most cases, any infection is slight and if treated quickly can be recovered from with no further complications.
Signs of dental implant infection
If you spot any signs of dental implant infection, then do not panic. But do inform your dentist straight away, and follow any instructions you are given to the letter.
Typical signs of dental implant infections are:
- Pain around the area or in the jaw
- High temperature or fever
- Feeling that the implant has loosened
- Swelling, bleeding or redness in the gums
- Pain or difficulty when chewing
- Pus or other fluid coming from the implant site or surrounding gums
- Bad smelling breath
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth that won’t go away
Are there alternatives to dental implants?
Happily, there are alternatives that can be more suitable if you or your dentist have concerns about your suitability. While the alternatives are less permanent, they are usually considerably less costly, so that may be a silver lining for you.
Popular alternatives to dental implants include dental bridges and dentures.
Dental bridges as an alternative
Dental bridge can replace up to four teeth in a row. They are typically made of ceramic, metal, or a combination of the two materials.
They are fixed in place by shaving down the adjacent healthy teeth. Also called the ‘abutment’ teeth, these act as an anchor for the bridge.
Having a dental bridge put in place is a shorter and less costly procedure than having dental implants. But with that said, bridges don’t last as long, and can be tricky to keep clean. The gap between the bridge and the gum underneath can need extra maintenance to keep clean and healthy.
Dentures as an alternative
Dentures are a different solution, as they need to be removed and cleaned on a daily basis. Rather than being fixed in place, like dental implants or a bridge, a denture is technically a prosthesis. It can replace any or all missing teeth, and also missing soft tissue.
Dentures are easy to look after, and also to repair. They are also a lower cost solution to dental implants or a dental bridge.
It can take time to get used to your dentures. They tend to be more noticeable to the wearer than fixed solutions like a bridge or implants would be. Dentures can move when you are eating, and can affect your speech until you adapt to the prosthesis being in your mouth.
For more pros and cons of dentures and dental bridges, take a look here.
So, What’s Next?
Now that you’ve read the truth about dental implants, how do you feel about your options?
They can be a great, permanent solution for many people. But if you have one of the health conditions mentioned then they might not be the best choice for you.
Happily, as you can see, alternatives are available. Always discuss your concerns with a reputable dentist, and answer all the health questions honestly for your own benefit.
If you would like to talk through your options with one of our experienced dental providers, then please do reach out and request a call. There is a contact form on this page for you to send us your enquiry.
The best dentist for you is one who will provide you with all the information, and help you to reach a well-informed decision that you are comfortable with. Good communication between you and your dentist is vital for a successful outcome.
In addition, please only proceed with the treatment if you are fully comfortable with the treatment plan proposed by your provider.
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