With the increasing popularity of dental implants as a solution for missing or failing teeth, patients may notice that implants seem to be available everywhere. It can be hard to assess the qualifications of those offering implant surgery, as some centers offer procedures done by “general implant dentists” while others advertise the services of “surgical implant specialists” (oral surgeons). There is a key difference between these terms that potential candidates for dental implants should know before they proceed with surgery.
All dentists must attend dental school, which is typically four years of full-time study after a bachelor’s degree. Dentists then complete a licensure exam after dental school, prior to beginning a dental practice. Thus far, a general implant dentist and a surgical implant specialist (oral surgeon) have the same schooling.
Oral surgery, however, is a recognized specialty by the American Dental Association, one that requires a considerable amount of additional training. After dental school, those intending to become oral surgeons go on to four to six years of postdoctoral training in accredited residency programs, where they receive hospital-based training in surgical procedures and anesthesia. After this residency, oral surgeons complete a board certification examination before beginning practice. Board certification allows them to have hospital admitting privileges. Their expertise goes beyond a general dentist’s, and patients are often referred to these specialists for complicated tooth extractions such as the removal of wisdom teeth, reconstructive surgery, and other complex issues.
In contrast, “general implant dentist” is not a recognized specialty, and has no established standards for additional postdoctoral education. While those who label themselves “general implant dentists” have likely completed some continuing education specific to implants, the depth of this training can vary widely from one provider to another. The title itself does not indicate any industry-wide approved course of study or certification procedures.
Where this difference becomes most apparent is in the management of potential complications. Due to their extensive postdoctoral training, oral surgeons have more experience with conditions that could potentially cause implant failure. This experience gives them an edge in both identifying these conditions and compensating for them prior to surgery. Should any complication arise, an oral surgeon can also manage and treat the case, rather than having to refer the patient to an outside specialist, as would be the case for a non-surgical implant dentist.
The success of any implant procedure can depend on the expertise of the professional setting the implants, particularly for patients with underlying conditions or multiple dental problems. Every patient should carefully examine the credentials and expertise of their potential provider before proceeding with surgery to ensure optimal results. Implants offer patients a solution for failing teeth that look and work just like the real thing, so it makes sense to choose the best specialist for long-term success rather than risking implant failure. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Hale, please call 818-999-0900.