Should I see a specialist for my dental implants?
Do I need a separate dental implant specialist to have my implants done? This is a question that is asked to me periodically. The most recent occurrence of this question happened 2 weeks ago. Let me add, parenthetically, that the question is usually asked to me by a new patient. Once a patient becomes part of the practice, he or she is usually comfortable with the wide array of services that our office can provide.
Let me get back to our question and relate to you what happened. I was outlining a treatment for a new patient. The treatment included dental implants, removal of teeth, crowns, a full denture and a partial denture. We had discussed various options for a number of appointments. As always, I make the patient a partner with me in the ultimate plan. I inform and educate. Together we create a plan that works for that patient in that circumstance. After a number of discussions, he asks me the specialist question.
How specialties operate in dentistry
Before I answered him, I needed to explain how specialties operate in dentistry.
To be called a specialist, you must practice one of the dentistry’s recognized specialties. Periodontics which involves treating the gums, endodontics which treats root canals, oral surgery which involves tooth extractionsand more. Lastly, orthodontics, the discipline that helps to straighten teeth is another specialty. These are all recognized specialties by the governing bodies of dentistry. Governing bodies are state boards and national societies. You can’t just take any procedure and call yourself a specialist. You will be taken to task by state dental boards. Most dental specialists limit their practice to their specialty. This is why if you see a root canal specialist for a root canal procedure, you will need to go back to the general dentist to place a filling or crown over the hole that was made to do the root canal.
Technically, there is no such thing as a ‘dental implant specialist’
So now let’s go back to our question from my patient. The answer is simply that implant dentistry is not a recognized specialty in the United States.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has not established implant dentistry as a specialty. Some professional dental organizations offer “credentials” in implant dentistry for their members, who often promote their expertise using these credentials. However, none of these credentials are recognized by the ADA.
As such, no dentist is a “dental implant specialist” per se.
Now there are specialists such as oral surgeons or periodontists that place implants, but they are not “dental implant specialists”. In fact, if either of these types of doctors places an implant you have to go to another office to finish and put a crown on the implant. This is what I hear from so many patients who don’t like bouncing from office to office. Dentists who do the entire implant case for a patient from start to finish have been referred to as an ‘Implantologist’. Going by that unofficial and casual definition, my credentials and work fit into that category.
Planning and executing your implant procedure from start to finish
As a patient would you like to go from office to office to get your implant procedure completed? Starting it by one specialist and following up at another? Of course not! I find it very stimulating for me to plan and execute a case from start to finish. When I place an implant, I know what it will be used for and can control the placement to accommodate the final result. In cases where issues may arise, I can apprise the patient when it happens and then deal accordingly so the final result is not changed or if need be, altered in the least way possible. My patients always appreciate me staying on top of their treatment. You also benefit from getting the entire procedure done by one doctor – me.
Having years of experience is a huge advantage
When it comes to dental implants, having years of experience is a huge advantage, especially for my patients.
I have been placing and restoring dental implants since the early 1990’s. Besides teaching graduate students, I am now proud to say that I am associated with Northeast Ohio’s first implant company – Zuga Medical located in nearby Beachwood, Ohio. As their head trainer and instructor, I instruct licensed dentists in the discipline of placing and restoring dental implants using the Zuga Implant System. I present theory and science to these doctors. I follow this with live patient treatment while they watch the procedure.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these demonstrations must be worth over a million words for these doctors. This is so rewarding for me as I can share my many decades of knowledge with many of my colleagues. This allows more patients in our local area to benefit from one of the most exciting advancements in dentistry in many years.
If you are contemplating dental implants and would like to find out more about this exciting aspect of dentistry, please feel free to call me at 440-951-7856 and allow me to share in creating a healthy mouth for you to enjoy for years to come. I look forward to hearing from you.
Jeffrey Gross, DDS, FAGD is an Ohio licensed general dentist and is on the staff of Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine.