Healthy Beginnings

Dental Implants | A Consumer’s Approach to Provider Selection

Here are some considerations for choosing your dental implant provider.

Here are some considerations for choosing your dental implant provider.

The source of training for a dental implantologist, and their approach, is a critical feature for a consumer to select their doctor for care.

Implantology is not a recognized specialty by the American Dental Association and therefore, any dentist may perform implants, given the proper training. But, finding a properly trained dentist could become difficult for consumers.

There are ample amounts of implant training opportunities for dentists. For example, a dentist may sign up for a weekend course and become certified to place implants. The companies who manufacture implants give many implant courses as well. Some dentists who have been placing implants for an extended period of time teach other dentists how to place implants. There are also specialty programs in dental schools that provide training on implants, their placement and restoration.

However, once trained, there is a period of time that is the practitioner’s learning curve with the procedures. As a patient, it is ill advised to select a care provider with little experience if there are choices of more experienced implantologists. Here are some considerations for choosing your dental implant provider.

The dental market is currently experiencing turf wars between dental specialists over implant placement. You will find that Periodontists place implants, because they are experts in the soft tissue (gums) and surgery. Oral Surgeons often place them because they are experts in the surgical procedures of the bone involving teeth and other structures. A few root canal specialists are now also getting on board, claiming to be the experts, as they deal with the roots of teeth daily and the implant is actually a replacement prosthetic for the root of the tooth. Prosthodontists are less likely to surgically place implants, but occasionally do, and their specialty is on dental prostheses of a complex nature. Of all the specialists that are recognized by the American Dental Association, none are specifically trained in implants. There are two additional certificate post-doctoral training programs approved by the ADA. A general practice residency (GPR) is available in hospital settings only and usually through a teaching hospital associated with a University or Dental School. Another program for post dental school training opportunity are the AEGD (Advanced Education in General Dentistry) programs associated with clinical settings in collaboration with a Dental School. Both programs are good training environments for learning implants and are incorporated into the 1-2 year curriculum.

The fact that many general dentists are doing surgical placement and prosthetic rehabilitation on implants is due largely to the nature of the relationship that patients have with their primary care dentist. Consumers prefer to stay at their dentist’s office for their care at every level. This is a good reason for more practitioners to be trained in the GPR and AEGD programs before entering private practice, especially in rural areas. The ability to learn how to perform the procedures for implant placement with guidance is essential in a long-term setting, such as these residency programs.

Standard implants require more sophistication to place, as they require an osteotomy (bone removal). The skin is cut open to reveal the bone underneath, and a hole is drilled into the bone to place the titanium screw. The screw size is dictated by the amount of bone the patient has and can range anywhere from 3.0 to 7.0 millimeters. Additionally, the length of the implant will depend largely on the amount of bone available and the practitioner’s inventory. The nature of the surgery to access the bone is more aggressive than the less-invasive mini-implants you may have read about in the May Healthy Beginnings article. The small diameter implants are 1.8mm and up to 2.8mm, and fundamentally differ from standards in that they are less invasive and actually get screwed into the bone for mechanical retention similar to a wood screw.

With the advent of so many significant health complications related to dental implants (Dick VanDyke’s recent public announcement of his illness) it is a good idea to trust a qualified professional who will talk to you about their training and experience with all facets of dental implants. If they have not learned about all the available choices, or they do not have the experience to witness what makes them succeed or fail, they can’t give you the best advice for your mouth.

One professional organization, the International Congress of Oral Implantology, is a good place for all practitioners to get support and updates for dental implantology and developing technologies. The information in their publications and conferences are broad in worldwide science. Their aim is to collectively prepare practitioners of all backgrounds to be versed in the latest and greatest science for their patients.

For more info, contact Infinity Dental: (775) 786-7718.

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