Individuals who choose dental implant based reconstruction are making a substantial investment in their oral health, comfort and appearance. For that investment, they have every right to expect optimal results.
In order to realize those expectations, it is very important for potential patients to understand that the training, skill and experience of the dental professional placing dental implants has a great deal of impact on the final results, factors that can vary greatly according to the provider chosen to perform the procedure.
There have been a number of changes in the field of dental implantology in recent years. Among the most notable of these, as implant use has become more popular, is the growing number of general dentists performing dental implant surgeries. While there certainly are some who are very good at what they do, the issue with this development is simple, these practitioners are not receiving the same level of education and training in dental implantology as a specialist with a background in oral surgery.
Is a Weekend Course Sufficient?
Since “Dental Implant Specialist” is not a recognized specialty, there are no specific standards of education and experience that limit who can declare themselves such a specialist. This has led to wide variations in the qualifications and experience of dental implant providers. Typically, dental implantology is not within the scope of a standard dental school education, so general dentists who venture into the field usually get their training in continuing education courses. Courses are popping up all over the country with the purpose of training general dentists to be implant specialists, With many amounting to as little as a weekend of study or a few days of seminars.
In contrast, the educational standards of dental implant specialists trained in oral surgery, as outlined by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), include dental school, followed by a minimum of four years in a hospital-based residency program, where they train alongside residents in internal medicine, general surgery, and anesthesiology, as well as otolaryngology, plastic surgery, and emergency medicine. Training focuses on the hard and soft tissue of the face, mouth, and jaws.
Many surgeons also earn a medical or other advanced degree, and may also complete fellowships in sub-specialty areas. During this training, surgeons acquire extensive clinical experience, typically placing hundreds of dental implants and performing hundreds of bone augmentation and other implant related surgeries, honing their skills for several years before entering private practice.
Insist on Board Certified Specialist with Extensive Experience
This stark difference in education and experience levels is an issue of concern for a variety of reasons. For instance, although dental implant placement is a fairly routine procedure in most cases, it is oral surgery and there are many potential complications. Preventing these complications or treating them successfully when they cannot be avoided requires the skill and expertise of a true specialist.
Additionally, optimal results depend upon precise, effective surgical planning, expert selection of implant materials and precise implant placement. A few days of superficial instruction on dental implants cannot compare with the extensive training and experience in surgical techniques and maxillofacial anatomy that oral surgeons receive, a difference that certainly contributes to the higher dental implant success rates among dental specialists with an oral surgery background as opposed to other providers.
The bottom line is this: Dental implants are surgery, which is obviously best done by a trained specialist with experience in oral surgery. While there are certainly general dentists out there who are quite capable when it comes to dental implant placement, considering the variation in training and experience among providers, choosing to have your implants placed by a general dentist is a gamble. Given the stakes involved, why settle for less than a qualified, implant specialist?
Photo credit: Jimmy Chuang