What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are artificial replacement tooth roots for a missing natural tooth.
The implant is made up of different components which include a screw, a connector, and the implant tooth. The screw is inserted into the jawbone and placed beneath the gums to support a dental prosthesis. This may either be a crown or denture.
The implant screw is also known as a fixture, which forms the body of the artificial tooth root that will be placed into your jawbone. This titanium screw will help strongly fixate the implant to your bone, keeping the artificial tooth securely held in place.
The implant connector is the suprastructure that is often hexagonal or octagonal in shape. It serves as a support to the implant crown and connects the crown to the screw that is integrated into the bone.
The implant crown is designed to replicate the likeness of a natural tooth and is the only part you will see in the mouth. Typically made of ceramic or metal, the crown covers the connector and feels similar to natural teeth.
Types of Dental Implants
Depending on your needs, there are several different types of dental implants available. Your dentist will assess your condition according to the number of missing teeth, the health of your jaw bone, and any budgetary concerns that you may have.
The types of dental implants include:
- Single Dental Implant
- Implant Bridge
- Implant Dentures
While a single implant is used to replace a single tooth, an implant bridge may be needed when 3 to 4 teeth in a row need replacement. Endosteal implants are most commonly used and are placed in the bone. However, subperiosteal implants that are placed underneath the gums but above the jawbone are sometimes used. This may be required when there is not enough bone to hold the implant.
If you are missing all your teeth, denture implants may be recommended instead. There are two options: all-on-4 dental implants or all-on-6 dental implants. The main difference between the two is the number of implants placed in the mouth. While some dentists find that the all-on-6 dental procedure provides stronger support for the dentures, other dentists find no significant difference in strength.
What Are the Advantages of Dental Implants?
There are a number of advantages to dental implants, which include:
Restoring your ability to eat
Dental implants that are anchored into the jawbone allow you to bite your food with the same amount of force you normally would using natural teeth. Other tooth replacements, such as bridges, will not restore your bite force entirely as it only sits on top of your gums and is not connected to your jawbone.
Restoring your natural speech ability
Missing teeth can alter your speech patterns but dental implants are designed to feel, look, and function just like regular teeth. Unlike bridges, implants allow you to speak without any worry that the teeth will slip.
Improving your appearance
Having missing teeth can affect your facial appearance and may result in lower self-confidence. Dental implants are made to look just like your natural teeth so you don’t have to worry about them looking artificial. Dental implants will help you find your smile again.
Improving your oral health
Dental implants are very easy to care for and do not require special dental hygiene products for maintenance. Moreover, the implants are removable and provide convenient access for cleaning between teeth if needed.
Preventing any change in the shape of your face
Missing teeth can cause your face to slowly lose its facial structure over time as teeth help to provide support. While this may not have a drastic difference in your physical appearance, it can cause the shape of your face to change, resulting in facial asymmetry. In some cases, it can also cause you to appear older. Dental implants will prevent this from happening.
Procedure and After-Care
Assessment and Preparation
Your dentist will first assess the condition of your teeth to determine if you are suitable for dental implants. During a consultation session, your dentist will look at the size of missing tooth gaps, health of gums and bone, presence of nerves in the gum area, and other health risk factors.
An x-ray or CT scan may also be conducted to obtain an image that provides detail on the thickness and density of your jawbone. This also allows your dentist to pinpoint the location of where the dental implant will be inserted.
If the situation requires, additional extraction may be done several months beforehand in preparation for the dental implant procedure. This allows the bone time to heal.
Implant Placement Surgery
During the surgery, an incision will be made into your gums to allow access to the jawbone. A hole will then be drilled before an implant rod is screwed into place. Your gums will be sutured back over the implant site to facilitate recovery. You may be given a temporary crown to wear while your gums are healing.
You will either be placed under local or general anaesthesia for the surgery. The entire procedure for a single implant can be as short as 20 minutes.
Sinus Lifting and Bone Grafting
Some patients may require additional surgery treatment such as a bone graft when there is inadequate bone mass for the dental implant to be successful. Other patients may even need a sinus lift to augment their upper jaw by raising the sinus membrane to make space for a bone graft.
Loss of bone quality can occur for a number of reasons such as chronic periodontitis, osteoporosis, bone resorption due to missing teeth, crooked teeth, tumours and cysts. A bone graft and sinus lift surgery will have to be carried out six months before the dental implant procedure. This allows for full recovery of the soft tissue and bone.
After your dental implant surgery, you should expect to feel swelling and soreness in your mouth for the next 3-5 days. Your dentist may prescribe you with painkillers as well as antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections. Even though your gums may be healed on the surface, it will take another 3-6 months for total bone and gum recovery around the dental implant.
During this period, the jaw bone will fuse with the implant, creating a strong anchoring base for the new artificial tooth.
Crown, Bridge or Denture Placement
Finally, your dentist will provide a custom-made tooth from a mould or 3D intraoral scan that will be secured to the implant screw. This dental prosthesis will serve as a permanent solution to your missing tooth, blending in with the rest of your natural teeth.
If you have lost more than one tooth, a bridge will be placed over the implant screws. If you are missing all of your teeth, a denture placement will be affixed to the various implant screws.
What Are the Risks?
As with any dental surgery, there are some potential risks that you should be aware of. However, problems are rare and complications that arise are very easily treated. The risks include:
- Infection of the dental implant site
- Damage to surrounding teeth or blood vessels
- Nerve damage that results in pain, numbness, tingling, or loss of sensitivity
- Protrusion into sinus cavities, causing sinus problems
What Are the Dental Implant Costs in Singapore?
The cost of dental implants can range from $3,000 to $6,000 in Singapore. This depends on a number of factors such as your condition, the location of the dental implant in your jaw, the number of implants used, and the type of implant used. The cost will also increase if your case is more complex.
This fee is not inclusive of the consultation fee, x-ray or CT scan, medication and post-operation review.
Does Medisave or Insurance Cover for Dental Implants?
The good thing is that dental implant surgery fees are Medisave-claimable up to a limit of $1,250 per implant. This is subject to a maximum of $7,500 for eight implants.
If you are a Singaporean Citizen or Permanent Resident, be sure to bring along your identity card to the clinic. The administrative staff will fill in the necessary paperwork and submit the claim request on your behalf.
What to Expect After the Procedure?
After the dental implant surgery has been completed, you may expect to experience some pain, swelling, and discomfort for the next 3 – 5 days. Most patients report minimal discomfort with a pain score of 1 – 2 out of 10. Do not be alarmed if there is minor bleeding at the implant site, as the wound will need time to heal.
Your dental surgeon will prescribe you with pain medication as well as antibiotics to prevent the onset of infection. During this period, you may need to eat soft foods or only chew on one side of the mouth while the surgical site heals. If your surgeon has used dissolvable stitches, you will not need to return to the clinic to remove them.
You will need to come in for regular dental check-ups every 6 months or so. This is for your dentist to assess the integrity of your dental implant and ensure that it has properly fused with your jawbone. By doing so, this helps to prevent any related oral health issues that may potentially arise.
Answering Commonly Asked Questions
Is getting dental implants painful?
The surgery itself is not painful because of the administration of local anaesthesia which numbs your gums. You will only feel pressure being exerted onto your jaw, but you should not feel any pain during the incision and drilling. If you are placed under general anaesthesia, you will not be conscious during the dental procedure.
Once the numbness wears off after surgery, you may experience mild pain.
What is the success rate of dental implants?
Dental implant surgery has a 90% – 95% success rate with a low occurrence of complications. Moreover, complications that do arise are very easily treated.
There is a small possibility that the jawbone tissue may fail to fuse sufficiently to the dental implant screw. In such cases, the implant will have to be removed and the bone matter must be cleaned up before the procedure can be re-attempted in 3 – 6 months time.
How long do dental implants last?
With regular brushing, flossing, and proper oral hygiene, the implant screw itself can last a lifetime. This is because dental implants are designed to be a permanent tooth replacement option. The crown, however, usually needs to be replaced every 15 years due to wear and tear.
Dental implant surgery can provide a lasting solution to your missing teeth. It is definitely worth the effort if it can restore your ability to chew normally again, as well as improve your self-confidence. Dental implants can ultimately be beneficial for the overall beauty aspect of your teeth.