Prioritising Oral Health

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By June Ramli

Kuala Lumpur, March 7: Many clinicians consider dental implants to be the standard of care for replacing missing teeth. 
Dental implants often lead to successful and long-lasting teeth restorations. 
The fact is that the health of your mouth, teeth, and gums can and will affect your overall general health is the very reason why your dental health must be prioritised at all times. 
Additionally, the appearance of your smile can negatively or positively impact your professional and personal success story.
In short, a dental implant is a man-made screw made out of titanium alloy that replaces the root of a missing tooth. And onto that dental implant are added parts called abutments that allow dentists to replace missing teeth or multiple missing teeth.
But to get a better idea of what dental implants is all about, recently spoke to Dr Elaine Lim, the Managing Director and Oral Implantologist at E. L. Lim Dental Surgery on the procedure. In her practice she uses Straumann‘s products as she is affiliated with the brand. 
The Straumann Group (SIX: STMN) is a global leader in tooth replacement and orthodontic solutions that restore smiles and confidence. It unites global and international brands that stand for excellence, innovation and quality in replacement, corrective and digital dentistry, including Anthogyr, ClearCorrect, Dental Wings, Medentika, Neodent, NUVO, Straumann and other fully/partly owned companies and partners. In collaboration with leading clinics, institutes and universities, the Group researches, develops, manufactures and supplies dental implants, instruments, CADCAM prosthetics, orthodontic aligners, biomaterials and digital solutions for use in tooth correction, replacement and restoration or to prevent tooth loss. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, the Group currently employs more than 8000 people worldwide. Its products, solutions and services are available in more than 100 countries through a broad network of distribution subsidiaries and partners. Without further ado, let’s read the interview with Dr Lim below:

Dr Elaine Lim Ee Lian.
Dr Elaine Lim Ee Lian. Image supplied.

What is a dental implant and who needs one?

Dental implants are placed in the human jawbone, where they serve as the roots of missing teeth. After the implants are fused with the jawbone (osseointegration), the dentist would restore the dental implants with a prosthesis (crown, bridge or denture). Generally, dental implants may be right for patients with one or more missing teeth. Tooth loss could be due to gum disease, untreated or non-restorable dental cavities, physical injury or trauma (road accident, sports injury, fall), cracked tooth, pathology (cysts, dental tumours), congenital abnormalities.

What role does the patient play in the success or failure of a dental implant?

Patient compliance such as maintaining good oral hygiene, stopping smoking tobacco, ensuring optimal health conditions (for example good blood glucose for people with diabetes) and adhering to the follow-up visits are crucial in ensuring the success of a dental implant. It is important that the patient understands the whole process and is willing to commit to the procedures, which could take several months. 

Please explain the process of getting a dental implant?

Before getting a dental implant, a thorough evaluation is necessary. Understanding patients’ concerns, review of dental and medical history, a comprehensive examination (dental radiograph or 3D images, extraoral and intraoral photography, study model, intraoral scanning). Treatment plans shall be tailored to the patient’s condition after taking into account the different factors such as the number of remaining teeth, condition of the jaw bone, budget and patient’s availability. Digital implant planning was conducted, followed by 3D printing of a digital surgical guide. Dental implant surgery could be performed under local anaesthesia, with an outpatient setup. The process involves multiple steps, including removal of the unrestorable tooth (if present), jawbone grafting, if necessary, before or simultaneously with the placement of dental implants, bone healing period (could be three to six months), abutment placement, impression and issue of dental prosthesis. 

Good oral health is more important than many patients may realize
Dr Lim’s clinic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Image supplied.

What are other options for replacing teeth? 

Other options for the replacement of missing teeth are dentures and dental bridges. The dentist needs to understand the patient’s needs besides conducting comprehensive evaluation before treatment planning, patient education and thorough consultation before the decision making. The patient should be informed about the pros and cons of each treatment option. The final decision shall be made by the patient. 

What sort of risks is thereby not addressing a missing tooth?

Not replacing the missing tooth could lead to several problems such as bite changes- shifting of adjacent teeth may lead to difficulty in chewing or TMJ (tooth, mouth and jaw) problems. Increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Shifting of teeth leads to difficulty in cleaning. Deposition of food debris and plaque can increase the risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay. Speech impediments, especially if the front teeth are missing, often have a remarkable impact on the sound’s production. Premature ageing due to changes in facial structure as without stimulation, acceleration of bone resorption following tooth loss, subsequently lead to change in facial structure. Reduced self-esteem and self-consciousness about missing teeth can have psychological effects and be more reluctant to speak in public or may smile less. Loss of teeth in the elderly may compromise their quality of life due to difficulty in chewing and speech impediments.

How realistic-looking are dental implants, and are there any flexibility in choosing what the implants look like in comparison to natural teeth? 

By restoring the gum shrinkage issue with soft tissue grafting as well as bone loss problem with bone augmentation before or simultaneously of dental implant placement, it is likely to improve the hard and soft tissue condition surrounding the dental implant. There are different types of dental implants and dental prostheses available in the market. The dentist could choose the most suitable one based on the patient’s condition. All in all, it is highly likely to obtain an outcome similar to the natural dentition. 

Cost of your most sought-after treatment? 

Dental implant solutions provide a better quality of lifegives one comfort and convenience and improve one’s oral health and physical appearance. You cannot put a value on your health when deciding between dental implants and conventional restorations, and studies suggest that implants may be less expensive in the long term. The cost of dental implant treatment varies depending on the complexity of the case. Implants are a cost-effective alternative to conventional restorations and improve the quality of life. Especially for single-tooth replacement, an implant is a cost-effective treatment option in comparison to a conventional three-unit bridge. For the replacement of multiple teeth, dental implants are associated with higher initial costs, but improvements in oral health-related quality of life compared with other treatment options. Before treatment, an initial diagnosis and cost plan is determined by your dentist. Costs depend on how many implants are needed and whether sufficient bone is available. Other factors may include special surgical needs, unique lab work, prosthesis and the dentist’s and dental technician’s fees.

What are the benefits of using Straumann? 

The brand has a strong evidence-based, reliable, predictable outcome and has clinically safe products. It also offers excellent services by the local sales support team as well as continuing professional education from the world’s leading universities, experts and scientific communities. 

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