Based on the amount of advertising for dental implants, patients are led to believe that dental implant treatment is available in any dental office. There seems to be a general misconception that any dentist is qualified to surgically place dental implants and that the quality of treatment is the same regardless of where it is provided. The truth is that it is legal for any licensed dentist to place dental implants; however, dentists placing dental implants are held to the same legal standard of care as surgical specialists. In other word, they should have the same amount of training and experience as surgical specialists if they choose to provide surgical dental implant treatment, including bone grafting.
What qualifies surgical specialists to place dental implants?
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and Periodontists are the only surgical specialists recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA). As part of their surgical training, they attend post-graduate residency programs. Oral Surgeons spend an additional four years beyond dental school in a hospital-based residency, including a full year of anesthesia training. Periodontists attend three-year surgical residency programs following dental school. The formal training and education alone is significantly greater for surgical specialists than for general dentists.
A substantial amount of the training and experience obtained during these residency programs is focused on anticipating, diagnosing, and treating surgical complications. The most unusual and challenging cases are sent to teaching hospitals, giving the residents an opportunity to routinely treat complex cases, many of which they might never see in private practice. This level of expertise enables surgical specialists to handle potential complications that could occur during procedures. This is critically important for surgical specialists, as they perform surgical procedures for numerous patients on a daily basis
In the right hands, dental implant treatment is extremely successful and complications are pretty rare. However, in the event of a surgical complication the extensive experience of surgical specialists provides a level of safety and comfort for patients that does not exist when dentists with far less training and experience perform surgical procedures.
In April and May of 2016, KGTV 10 News in San Diego reported the stories of patients answering ads for inexpensive dental implants and suffering the consequences of treatment that was not done properly. The reporter also interviewed the oral surgeons in San Diego who replaced the failed implants and provided appropriate treatment.
Unfortunately, many “non-surgical” dentists begin to surgically place dental implants after taking an abbreviated surgical training course (1-3 days). These courses barely provide an overview of dental implant surgery and they certainly do not prepare the participants to predict, diagnose and treat potential complications. Since dental implant placement is a surgical procedure, if patients are considering having a general dentist provide treatment, it is highly recommended that patients ask questions about training and experience prior to undergoing dental implant surgery.
The following questions can help you determine whether a non-specialist is experienced with dental implant placement.
How many surgical training courses has the dentist taken and how long was each course?
Did these courses comply with the recommended guidelines for meeting the legal standard of care for surgical implant placement?
How many courses has the dentist taken specifically on the management of complications?
How many continuing education courses on implants does the dentist attend on a yearly basis?
How long has the dentist been placing implants and how many implants does the dentist place each year?
Does the dentist refer complex or difficult cases to a surgical specialist?
How many bone grafting procedures has the dentist has done?