10 things to consider before having dental implants
Dental implants can be a heaven-sent for those with missing teeth, however, there are some points to take note.
BY: Dr Ang Chee Wan
For those with missing teeth, dental implants can bring back the joy of simple activities such as eating and chewing food with ease and comfort. It also protects against damage to adjacent teeth.
The treatment process begins with an examination and treatment planning to determine if the foundation is suitable to receive an implant. Thereafter is the implant placement, where a titanium-alloy implant is inserted without load for a healing period of two to three months. The final stage involves the placement of the crown over the implant, which is made to match to the neighbouring teeth as close as possible to achieve a good aesthetic outcome.
So before you consider having such a procedure, here are 10 things to keep in mind:
1. Don’t rush into implant treatment – Implant treatment requires careful planning and thorough discussion between the patient and specialist, which requires time. During the discussion, find out if there are other options that don’t require implants.
2. Discuss if technology will be used to ensure the safety of implant treatment – There are many technological advances that can be applied to ensure that the implant treatment is safe. These include low-dose, in-office 3D CT scan to avoid placement of implants into nerves and other important structures.
• Low-dose radiation is also important and the latest digital X-ray machines produce lower dose of radiation compared to older machines.
• Computer planning software can be used to better predict the final outcome of the implant treatment even before the surgery.
• Lasers can be used for certain procedures to reduce post-op discomfort.
• Microscope and fine instruments can also be helpful in reducing post-op discomfort.
3. Discuss the implant brand and type of crown material to be used – Reputable implant manufacturers produce components that have been tested in research and have been functioning for decades. Hence, patients should always choose implant components from reputable implant manufacturers that have a long history because these components have stood the test of time. Also keep in mind that some materials used for the crown are stronger and should be used in the back teeth. However, some materials are more aesthetically appealing and should be used in the front teeth.
4. Take time to discuss if the bone, gum and other teeth are healthy enough for implants to be placed – The specialist should check if the bone, gum and other teeth are healthy enough before implant treatment. If the bone and gum at the implant site are not healthy or sufficient, addition of bone and gum may be required. Only by doing that, can the implants be safely placed to ensure their longevity. The patient’s other teeth and gums should not be infected. If decay and gum infections are not treated first, the infection can spread to the implants.
5. Find out if the dentist has relevant post-graduate qualifications – Implant training is not done in most undergraduate programmes. Some structured post-graduate training in implant dentistry is necessary. Regular attendance of lectures and hands-on course is also important for constant upgrading of the specialist’s skills and knowledge.
6. Ask to see before and after photos of work performed by the dentist – These photos will provide an idea of the possible final outcome and can be used to gauge the dentist’s experience in the specific clinical situation.
7. Discuss the cost of treatment after you have thoroughly understood the various treatment options – After a comprehensive examination and discussion of the various treatment options, find out the reason for the high- or low-cost of treatment. Difference in implant brands, materials used and the specialist’s skills and experience will account for the difference in treatment fees.
8. Be aware of potential failure of implants – As with all procedures in medicine and dentistry, not all implant procedures will be fail-proof. In general, the success rate of implants is about 90 percent to 95 percent.
9. Discuss the post-treatment maintenance regime – After the completion of the implant treatment, there should be a plan for the maintenance of the implant and the teeth. Implants function just like natural teeth, and like natural teeth, infections can occur around the implants if they are not regularly checked and cleaned.
10. Seek a second- or third-opinion if in doubt – Always seek a second- or third-opinion because different specialists may be able to provide different options for consideration.
Dr Ang Chee Wan is a dental specialist in periodontics. He is a clinical director at T32 Dental Centre and a visiting faculty at the National University of Singapore. This article first appeared on T32 Dental Centre’s website and it has been updated with permission.
(** PHOTO CREDIT: T32 Dental Centre)