Patients have many options when choosing a dentist and surgical specialist. The Internet is populated with information about many providers performing surgical procedures, such as extractions, cosmetic periodontal (gum) surgery, and dental implant placement. However, it is important to remember that with any surgical procedure, there are inherent risks that could be alleviated with experience.
Because dental implants have such a high success rate (95-97% for 30+ years), people misleadingly assume that the implant surgery is a simple procedure. The high success rate is due, in large part, to the fact that most implants have been placed by highly skilled specialists who completed surgical residency programs. These surgical specialists have an in-depth knowledge of surgical techniques, as well as the diagnosis and treatment of potential complications.
Patients should understand that there is a significant difference between a post-graduate residency program training surgical specialists (oral surgeons and periodontists) and abbreviated continuing education courses introducing implants. The comprehensive training and experience of the surgical specialists enable them to diagnose and manage the potential complications that can occur with surgical procedures.
Some general dentists, prosthodontists, and endodontists have attended training courses on surgical implant placement and have achieved successful results placing implants for their patients. However, most of the non-surgical dentists placing implants may not encounter and subsequently, feel comfortable managing and treating the potential complications that are routine for surgical specialists. As a result, patients have experienced serious implant failures and complications that could have been possibly avoided if they had been treated by surgical specialists.
If you are considering dental implants or any other surgical procedure, the following questions can help you make an informed decision about your treatment and your oral health.
1) What is your specialty?
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons and periodontists are the only ADA recognized surgical specialists.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons treat patients with problem wisdom teeth, facial pain, and misaligned jaws. They also treat accident victims suffering facial injuries, place dental implants and bone grafts, care for patients with oral cancer, tumors and cysts of the jaws. Some oral and maxillofacial surgeons also perform facial cosmetic surgery.
Following dental school, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are surgically trained in a hospital-based residency program for a minimum of four years.
Periodontists specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease, the placement of dental implants and bone grafts, and treatment of oral inflammation. Periodontists also perform cosmetic periodontal surgery.
Periodontists received an additional three years of specialty education and surgical training beyond dental school.
Implantologists are not accredited specialists. The term Implantologist does not necessarily indicate extensive surgical training and/or expertise in dental implants.
2) What is the extent of your training and experience in implant placement?
Oral surgeons and periodontists will be more than willing to share their extensive training and experience with you, including the numerous continuing education courses they attend each year and the volumes of scientific literature they review. They should also be happy to tell you how many hundreds of implants they place each year and how long they have been placing implants.
If you are considering implant treatment provided by a non-surgical dentist, ask specific questions about the implant training courses they attended, such as the name of the courses, dates, duration, and sponsorship. You should also ask how many courses they attended on the management of complications and how many implants they have placed.
3) Ask to speak to other patients.
Their experiences can be invaluable in determining if you are in good hands.
4) Speak to the staff about dental implants.
If they cannot answer your questions, the office probably does not provide implant procedures on a regular basis.
5) Ask to see before and after photos of cases.
Surgical specialists who perform hundreds, or even thousands, of implant procedures are usually happy to share their successful case results with you.