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Demystifying the Dental Implant

The dream that became a reality

Porcelain TeethDental implants are manmade foundations that are placed into your jaw bones to replace the roots of your missing teeth. Some time ago, the idea that missing teeth could be replaced by manmade implants probably belonged in the realm of science fiction. Perhaps some of us remember our elders telling us to take care of our teeth because once lost, they cannot be replaced. Certainly, the age of ‘cybernetic’ implants which can be incorporated into the human body to function as replacements of lost, diseased body parts or organs is still a long way into the future. So what makes teeth different and why is dental implant placement such a reliable and widely accepted treatment practised all over the world today?

Fitting In Perfectly

Such treatment has been made possible by the discovery that living bone forms direct contact with implanted titanium or its alloys. This process is called ‘osseo-integration’, that is, integration of the bone, and is characterised by the rigid fixation of such implants to the jaw bones after a period of healing. Teeth can be considered to be externalised extensions of our jaw bones and do not need to be able to move independently, nor do they serve any biochemical functions besides being strong enough for us to chew food (and beautiful enough for us to have a nice smile). Thus, it has become entirely possible for such tooth implants to predictably replace our natural teeth that have to be removed due to dental disease or trauma.

Modern-day dental implantology was first applied clinically in 1965, when a patient who was missing teeth due to severe chin and jaw deformities received titanium dental implants. The field of dental implants is continually progressing. There is data backed by research that provides strong evidence for the possibility of having long lasting replacement teeth if you take care of them and have them regularly checked and maintained, like you would do for natural teeth.

dental implantGetting Implants: A Bite-sized Outline

In getting a dental implant placed, a simple surgery is done under local anaesthesia only or with sedation, or general anaesthesia. Prior to this, an examination is carried out to design a customised treatment plan to cater to your dental condition. Implant surgery typically involves the insertion of dental implants by lifting the gum away from the bone, creating a space in the bone for the implant and inserting the implant into that space. The gums are then replaced and held with stitches. After the dental implant surgery, you may receive a temporary prosthesis (crown, denture or bridge) on the same day, especially if the implant is replacing a visible tooth, like one of your front teeth.

If you do not have enough jaw bone to support a dental implant, you may need to have an additional bone grafting procedure. Your dental professional will examine your teeth, gums and jaw, including the bone quantity and quality, to assess whether you have sufficient bone to support dental implants. Radiographic examinations or dental computed tomography (for example, a CT scan) may be needed for comprehensive evaluation.

After placement of a dental implant, it generally takes about two to six months for it to integrate with your jaw bone. As dental implant surgery is a minor oral surgical procedure, any discomfort that you may feel should be minimal. Slight swelling of your gums or face at the implant sites may occur, but this is usually manageable and most people are back on their feet in a day or two. When the dental implant stabilises and becomes rigidly fixed in the jaw bone, the temporary prosthesis will be replaced with a permanent crown or bridge which looks and functions like your natural teeth.


Implants Inquiry!1

Want to know more? Find your answers in this list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Q: Am I suitable for dental implant treatment?

A: If you are in acceptably good health, dental implant treatment is suitable and safe. However, heavy smoking can increase the risk of having complications during the initial healing period and has also been shown to have negative effects on the long-term health of gum and bone surrounding the implant and natural teeth. It is best to consult your dental professional regarding any concerns that you may have about your health issues and dental implant treatment.

Q: What are the chances of success and are there any risks involved?

A: Studies have shown high success rates of up to 97% and above for 10 years with regard to single tooth implants. Implant surgery is a simple and safe procedure; implanted teeth require the same amount of care that you would give to your other natural teeth for them to last a long time.

Q: Would my dental implants look and feel the same as my natural teeth?

A: Your implant-supported teeth should look, feel and function just like your natural teeth. Dental implants may be used to replace a single missing tooth or a full set of teeth. One or more teeth can be replaced without affecting neighbouring teeth.

Q: What are my alternatives?

A: The available treatment options for replacement of missing teeth will vary for different situations, but generally include bridges or dentures.

Q: Are dental implants a better option than bridges or dentures?

A: Generally, yes. Dental implants do not require additional treatment or violation of the adjacent teeth, as is the case for bridges. Dental implants are the most predictable treatment for missing tooth replacement. They are also superior to dentures in terms of comfort, bite force and practicality.

Q: Is it painful to have a dental implant?

A: No, such surgeries done under anaesthesia are painless. Many people are fearful of dental treatment and that is understandable. In fact, many who have had dental implant surgery report minimal pain after the surgery. After surgery, pain and discomfort should generally be minimal and well controlled with painkillers, which you will be given. It is advisable to start taking these before the local anesthesia wears off.

Q: What happens after the implant surgery?individualised advice on maintaining your implants both after surgery and when the permanent crown or bridge is finally fitted in.

Q: How about follow-up appointments?

A: Dental implants require regular follow-up and maintenance. It is important to clean them as you would clean your natural teeth so as to ensure the best possible outcome.


Dr Debbie Hong is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon with Specialist Dental Group®. She received her training in the specialty area of oral and maxillofacial surgery from the National University of Singapore (NUS). Dr Hong was the recipient of the Silver Jubilee Award by NUS Dental Society for her outstanding performance. For more information, visit
Posted by ezyhealth on Sep 3 2014. Filed under Dental Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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