Despite the ease of access to Medisave for dental implants, cost of such treatment has actually gone down. While rents and staff salaries have gone up multiple folds in the last twenty years, cost of dental implants in Singapore has actually gone down, even without factoring in inflation.
Past history of Implant dentistry in Singapore....
Twenty years ago, there were only a handful of dentists in Singapore doing dental implants. Back then, implant dentistry was practiced mainly by specialist teams, each comprising an oral surgeon and a prosthodontist. The surgeon is responsible for inserting the implant into the jaw bone while the prosthodontist places the crown that sits on the implant. There were only a couple of implant brands available in Singapore and they were arguably the best-known brands in the world. These premium brands were very expensive and service was slow. There were also not many dental laboratories that can make implant crowns. Many of the factors contributing to success and failures were still equivocal and as such, treatment plans were very conservative. There were a lot of overengineering and contingency plans to cater to potential complications. Although implant dentistry research then reported success rates in the region of 95% and above, there were many caveats, such as leaving the implant submerged under the gums without external interference for six months, no smoking, no diabetes, etc.
Development in dental implants
In the past twenty years, huge strides have been in implant dentistry. The number of dental implant manufacturers grew tremendously. The increase in competition drove prices down despite rising cost. More dentists, not just the specialists, got themselves trained to provide implant dentistry to their patients. A lot of research has been done and the new data showed the predictability of success in implant dentistry over that of conventional prosthetic dentistry. Researchers began to push the envelope, shortening the healing period, using fewer implants, testing out a wider variety of implant and prosthesis design and enhancing the healing ability of the tissue.
Today, in Singapore, more than half the total number of dental clinics registered with the Ministry of health provides dental implant services. There are probably more than twenty different brands of implants available, ranging from European and American brands to Israeli and Korean brands. There is intense competition amongst the different brands which helps to keep prices down and service up.
Minimizing cost by minimizing treatment
However, while cost is an important consideration, safety and effectiveness are more important. A patient considering dental implant treatment must understand his needs before considering the cost. Many treatment protocols today are introduced for the sake of saving cost and/or time. Significant cost can be saved by using the bare minimum number of implants to support a prosthesis. The downside of this approach is that it leaves no room for contingency. Dental implants bonds to the jaw bone via a biological process. This biological bond can be disrupted over time by infection and/or overloading. The medical status of a patient can also change over time and certain conditions such as diabetes may set in, making the implants more susceptible to failure. With a minimum number of implants supporting the prosthesis, failure of just one implant will lead to failure of the entire prosthesis, necessitating a complete redo, which will consequently cost more.
Contingency-proof treatment plan
This is not to say that this minimum treatment philosophy is bad. In some patients, where bone quality and quantity is good, there is a low chance of developing complications and contingency plans may not be that important. However, not all patients present with such ideal conditions and it is more important to plan for a prosthesis that has some redundancy built in to cater to potential problems. This can in turn save cost in the future when complications arise.
Ultimately, the cost of dental implants in Singapore has dropped significantly. It is more affordable than ever and it is fast becoming the first line of treatment for missing teeth. The combination of having a wide variety of implants and dentists providing the service together with easier access to Medisave funding has made it less taxing on the wallet. Rather than opting for a the most economical plan upfront, consider one that factors in potential complications in the future as well.