7 Questions to Qualify Your Dentist for Dental Implant Surgery

Many general dentists are performing surgical placement of dental implants without proper training or knowledge. This trend is largely due to the down economy and encouragement from dental implant companies who want to increase sales by sponsoring weekend courses. Many dentists now offer discount dental implant fees to allure patients to their offices. And patients are paying the price: poor implant placement, infections, nerve damage, complications, and overall failures. Just tune in dentaltown, an online forum for dentists, and see how many dentists are asking advice from other dentists on their complications! Read this example (need to register). if you don’t want to register, here is the dentist’s post after he placed two dental implants:

… In the post-ops after that I noticed that the incision was opened and the implant was exposed. Today I checked the implant again and I found: Implant is exposed on the crestal facial portion: on the mesial and distal side there is about 3 mm bone loss, on the facial portion there is about 6 mm bone lose. The implant is exposed. I am thinking about doing a repair surgery next week. I am going to place an allograft bone graft/ collagen membrane and try to achieve primary closure. I would like to get the expert opinions about the case. Do you think it will work? or do I need to remove the implant.

The last thing you need as a patient looking to replace a missing tooth with dental implant, is having a dentist who wants to perform this highly skilled procedure for the first or second time on YOU. Or one who took a couple of weekend courses and now places one or two implants a month! So what do you do in this age of aggressive marketing and convincing self-promotions from such, not so, ‘super’ dentists?

Ask these 7 questions to help you make engaged decisions about your treatment:

  1. What is your specialty? If he or she is a general dentist or endodontist, even if they claim they have received implant training, be cautious. Only oral surgeons and periodontists receive formal implant surgery training in accredited residency programs; some prosthodontists may also have advanced training, but much less common. Caution: An “Implantologist” is not a recognized and accredited specialty nor does it indicate proper training.
  2. What is the extent of your training in implant surgery? Ask specifically about completed residencies, the names of completed courses, dates, durations, and who sponsored them. Search these courses and see if they are legitimate programs endorsed or supported by professional associations. Completion of a ‘mini-residency’ is meaningless. Look only for specialists who have completed formal residencies in dental implant surgery.
  3. How many dental implants have you placed? A specialist or any skilled surgeon places hundreds of implants per year. They do these procedures day-in and day-out. Question their qualifications if they have placed only a few implants in the past few months or year!
  4. Do you work with any specialists? Even if a dentist places some dental implants, they almost always work with specialists in their area; Ask if it’s OK for you to speak with them and get a different perspective. It’s your right. Ask them why they do not refer you to a specialist? Ask what is the difference between their skills and the specialist’s.
  5. Ask to speak to other patients about their experience. Personal testimonials are very valuable and meaningful. Ask the dentist if you can speak to at least three patients who have had dental implant treatment. Do an online search for the dentist and read posted reviews.
  6. Ask the assistants and receptionists about dental implants (how they work, how long it takes, what are the steps, etc). If they can not readily  answer your questions or defer you constantly to the dentist for answers, then they most likely don’t perform many of them!
  7. Ask for brochures, supporting articles, before & after photos, and other detailed information. A practice with focus on dental implants will have all of these readily available. No need to look for it. Ask for before and after photos and ask them if they represent their actual work. Ask a lot of questions about how the procedure is done, how long it takes, materials, and rational for their recommendations. Verify their answers online or by calling an oral surgeon. Make sure what they say makes sense.

If you hear or observe the following, be cautious:

  • “This is an easy one, I can handle it”………It almost never is…that simple!
  • Dental implant sales person in the office during your treatment! You can guess why they are there!!!
  • ‘The lone star’……A dentist who seems to know everything and do everything!!!

Dental implant surgery is a highly skilled discipline, best performed by specialized surgeons who are properly trained and perform this procedure daily. Oral surgeons and periodontists are the only two recognized dental specialties that can perform surgical placement of dental implants. Success of implants requires special attention to how teeth are extracted, preservation or augmentation of the underlying jaw bone, development of proper gum tissue profile, precision implant placement and use of well researched implants with specific features and characteristics. Ask the right questions and choose the right team of dentists to take care of you. It makes all the difference.