Cost is probably one of the biggest factor when a patient considers having dental implants. Indeed implant dentistry is arguably the most expensive dental procedure. However, it is also fast becoming the treatment option of choice amongst most patients who lose their teeth. What was once a “luxury” has become a necessity, at least relatively speaking.This is probably due to our high standard of living in SIngapore and hence rising expectations of the people. Along with the increase in demand, dental implant manufacturers and dentists find ways to lower the cost of implant dentistry so that the majority of patients can afford. How cheap is the cheapest implant in Singapore today?
With a bit of “research”, comprising of just asking around and checking with suppliers, I found that the cost of one dental implant in Singapore can be as low as $1250. This is the cheapest that I have heard of, though I am not sure if that is the final amount that the patients paid. Nevertheless, there are still people who will think it is a lot of money to fix a false tooth. To put things in perspective, such a tooth implant cost, on average, $3000-5000.
Let’s take a look at the magic figure of $1250. How did the lowest price “settled” at this level? The simple answer is that this is the Medisave withdrawal limitfor surgical insertion of a dental implant, including the cost of the implant itself. A clinic that charges this amount can charge the patient’s Medisave account directly, and the patient will not need to make out of pocket payment. This proved to be a rather effective marketing for these clinics as patients are attracted by not having to pay out of pocket.
There are certain caveats to the $1250 implant. The patient must be medically fit and healthy and not require any peri-operative medical preparation for surgery. For example, diabetic patients need to get their diabetes under good control before surgery and that will add to the cost. Some patients are apprehensive and require sedation for surgery and that is another additional cost factor. If the missing tooth that needs replacement has been lost for many years, the bone may have resorbed and bone augmentation may be needed to support the implant.Bone grafting can be done by a wide variety of techniques depending on the needs of the case, each with additional and varying costs. In some cases, vital structures such a nerves may be encroaching on the space for the implant and additional procedures to reposition the nerve may be needed.
There is a myriad of possible adjunctive procedures needed to achieve an optimal result. However, the ability to recognize these factors and indicate the adjunctive procedures requires experience and skill on the part of the dentist. As with most professional services, there is an asymmetry of information and the patient is not in a position to judge whether the dentist has the requisite experience. As such, it is important to not to choose a dentistbased on cost alone.
The majority of dental implants in Singapore are done in private clinics. Like any business, these clinics are subjected to market forces. They have overheads such as rental, staff cost, equipment costs, etc which need to be paid to maintain the business. Different clinics set their own standards, which is reflected in their choice of location, decor, choice of implant brands and laboratories, and the experience and skill level of the dentists that they employ. All these factors in turn will determine the fees charged.
Dentistry is a craft that is scientifically regulated. A good dentist needs to be both a good scientist and a skilled craftsman. He needs to be constantly studying the scientific literature to learn the evidence-based techniques, both in diagnosis and treatment, as well as hone his craftsmanship through systematic documentation of his work. While not all patients require or want to have a work of art in his mouth, all patients should have a scientifically sound treatment plan.
Personally, I will start off with an ideal treatment plan which comprises all the bells and whistles needed to achieve an ideal result. Such an ideal plan often takes many visits and cost a lot more. Base on the feedback from the patient, we will cut back on some adjunctive procedures if the patient deems the outcome to be achieved by having that procedure as unimportant to him. This way, the patient gets to understand where the challenges are and what is needed to overcome them and the accompanying cost in finances and time. Some patients will accept the ideal plan while others will cut back on some part but they will know what they are giving up for the reduction in cost and time. Ultimately, the objective is to get to that sweet spot where a patient can get his needs fulfilled at the lowest fee.
It is possible to have a good implant tooth at $1250 provided it is the right indication, i.e. it is an ideal case with no compromising factors. However, if the indication is not right, e.g. a bone graft or gingival graft is needed but the implant was placed without doing them, rectifying the results will be a lot more expensive than getting it right in the first attempt. In fact, that will make the cheapest dental implant the most expensive implant.