I cracked what’s remaining of my upper premolar while chewing a guava two years back and the dentist had to extract the rest of it, leaving an obvious gap whenever I smiled. My dentist, Dr Chew (Pardon the pun but that’s really his surname, how apt!) recommended me to do a tooth implant in a year’s time. He told me the hole needed to be healed. (Some dentists do implants immediately but he wouldn’t recommend it.)
Last September, Dr Chew declared me ready for the ‘screw’ implant. As a rule, he generally does not perform complicated surgery on family and close friend, and since we were JC classmates, he sent me to The Oral Maxillofacial Practice for the insert implant treatment.
Dr Winston Tan was a loud and affable man, with a sense of humour unseen in many dentists. The treatment he would be performing involved inserting a Titanium Dioxide screw into my gum bone. During the ‘operation’, my face was covered with a surgical cloth. At every step, he explained to me what he was about to do.
At one point, he asked, ‘Do you feel someone pulling at your mouth?’ I nodded. He replied, ‘That idiot is me!’
There was some pressure but no pain, probably due to the anesthesia and the screw was inserted in about ten minutes.
I was given antibiotics and an assortment of pain killers and told to see him again in a week’s time for stitch removal.
There was no discomfort during the whole week and when I returned to see Dr Tan for the stitch removal, he found an abscess at the corner, like a little pimple. He unscrewed the cap on the insert and cleaned it with antiseptic. He told me usually there is no problem and he generally sees the patient only twice but be wanted to see me again, just to be certain.
For the next eight weeks, I saw Dr Tan weekly to treat the abscess. I complained about having to see him so often and he told me about a case where he had to see a female patient even more often than me that her husband thought they were having an affair.
About three months after the insert, I was ready to make the crown. The company for the tooth implant, Osstem, is a Korean company with a set up in Singapore. Dr Chew took a mould of my upper jaw. Then he helped me choose a colour for my crown, noting that I have stained teeth due to my frequent consumption of tea, which I was not about to give up for vanity sake.
Last Saturday, which was two weeks after the mould was done, I went for the crowning. The crown with a hexagonal root was clicked into the insert in my gum. I felt pressure on both the neighbouring teeth. There was a lot of adjustments to be done. I had to simulate chewing and grinding actions while sitting and lying down, and the crown was taken out a few times to be polished to adjust the fit. When all was done, the final screw on the crown was turned tight with a torque screw driver and a cement topped over it. With that, Dr Chew announced, ‘You are now queen. I just crowned you.’ (A fun bunch of dentists I have!)
I was pleased with me new tooth. For the past two years, I couldn’t smile properly in photos and my photos turned out horribly. Now, my grin is back.
As for the bite, Dr Chew had warned me that our natural teeth have a kind of shock absorber that was absent in implants. Thus, I may find a little pressure when biting on it. He was right. Even chewing on a piece of biscuit immediately after, the sensation was akin to biting on a hard shell. But that sensation gradually diminished as I got used to my tooth.
Lastly, cleaning of the tooth takes extra effort. I had to form a loop over the tooth with a floss and clean beneath the crown, where the brush couldn’t reach.
My new tooth looks and feels natural. But it cost me $3000 with discount (you may use medisave for about half the cost) so do take care of all your natural teeth.