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Are dental implants a pricey investment or a long-term bargain?

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Dental implants help in maintaining the health and strength of the jawbone too. Photo by Jonathan Borba - Unsplash

By: Dr. Nur Diyana Mohamed Radzi, Dr. Ainol Haniza Kherul Anuwar

In the dynamic world of modern medicine, one of the most notable successes is the increase in life expectancy. However, this success brings new challenges, particularly in dental health. Conditions like dental cavities and gum disease often lead to tooth loss. Against this backdrop, dental implants have emerged as a popular solution for replacing missing teeth. Typically made of titanium, these implants are surgically inserted into the jawbone, with a crown attached to them. Remarkably, dental implants have a high 10-year success rate of around 97% and do not damage neighbouring healthy teeth, making them a preferred conventional treatment option.

However, the high cost of dental implants is often a deterrent. A survey in Malaysia indicated that 81.8% of respondents considered dental implants too expensive. This concern is particularly relevant given that, according to the National Oral Health Survey among dentate adults in Malaysia, only 80.6% have 20 or more teeth, implying that 19.4% of adults in Malaysia may require tooth replacement.

In Malaysia, the cost for dental implants varies based on the setting (government clinics, university hospitals, or private clinics) and the implant system used. Prices range from RM 2,500 to RM 5,000 in government clinics, RM 4,500 to RM 6,000 in university hospitals, and RM 7,000 to RM 10,000 in private clinics, potentially increasing with additional procedures like grafting. These high upfront costs often discourage patients, but do they reflect the long-term cost?

The upfront expense of dental implants, though higher compared to other tooth replacement options, offers significant long-term value. They require minimal maintenance and are easier to clean than dental bridges, lasting many years with proper oral hygiene and regular dental visits. Dentures typically need replacement every four to six years due to wear and tear. On the other hand, dental bridges, which can last up to 10 years, heavily depend on the health of the teeth that support them.

Despite the high success rate of dental implants, complications such as loosening, infection, receding gums, or discomfort may occur. Infections around the implant, namely peri-implant mucositis and peri-implantitis, can lead to implant failure. Risk factors include diabetes, smoking, poor oral hygiene, insufficient bone density, previous gum disease, and teeth grinding.

Understanding oral health is crucial when considering options like dental implants. Good oral health is more than just about eating and speaking; it plays a significant role in our overall well-being and self-confidence. When we lose teeth, it’s not just a gap in our smile; it can lead to other problems like the misalignment of remaining teeth, changes in how we bite, and even a weakening of the jawbone.

Dental implants offer a unique solution. They do more than just replace the lost tooth; they also help in maintaining the health and strength of the jawbone, preventing these secondary issues. Furthermore, advancements in dental technology have made the process of getting implants less invasive and more efficient. From digital imaging to precise surgical techniques, the field of implant dentistry continues to evolve, improving patient experiences and outcomes.

In the end, when considering tooth replacement, each case should be diagnosed and planned individually. The decision between different treatments varies depending on personal circumstances. Maintaining good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups is vital for the success of any dental treatment. While the upfront cost of dental implants may seem high, their long-term benefits and the potential to significantly enhance quality of life make them a worthwhile investment for many.

Are you ready to take the next step towards a healthier, more confident smile? Consult your dentist today to explore how dental implants can be a game-changer in your life.

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Dr. Nur Diyana Mohamed Radzi is from the Department of Restorative Dentistry, and Dr. Ainol Haniza Kherul Anuwar is from the Department of Community Oral Health and Clinical Prevention, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya.

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