Q: Doc, I recently lost a tooth and my husband says I should get an implant. Shouldn’t I see a “specialist” for this?

A: This is a great question and one that has a very simple answer. No, it is not necessary to see a “specialist.” The American Dental Association has not designated the field of implantology as a specialty. Therefore, there are no implant “specialists.”
Dental implants can be placed by any doctor who has earned the title of DDS or DMD and currently practices dentistry.
This can be both good and bad. A patient may feel that they need to see some type of a specialist because they may have more experience with implants. Another patient may feel confident that their longtime general dentist with whom they have a great rapport can do the job as well as the specialist. While both of these situations can be true, it is the doctor’s experience that should be the key factor.

The doctor you choose should be able to explain your treatment options clearly, adequately answer your questions as well as show some completed cases of his or her own.

There are various implant teaching facilities throughout the country. In selecting a doctor you should pick one who has completed extensive training in one or more of these programs.

Implant treatment can be complex so it is extremely important you have someone with extensive knowledge and expertise and that is familiar with the different aspects of treatment.

There are a couple different phases to implant treatment. The first portion is the surgical phase. This involves the placement of the dental implant into a precise location in the bone. This portion of the implant cannot be seen and will later serve as the support mechanism to the tooth portion of the implant in much the same way that a tooth root supports a tooth. Once the placement is complete the implant is left in place underneath the gum tissue where it integrates and becomes permanently attached to the bone.

After this takes place, the second phase of treatment can begin. This phase is the restorative phase and involves the fabrication and placement of the final restoration(s) on top of the integrated implant(s).

Both phases are equally important and crucial to the success of the entire case.

A dentist or specialist may only perform the first phase requiring another dentist for the second phase. This is where things can become confusing. Going from location to location for the various steps can cause problems if there is not adequate communication during the planning stage.

The best way to avoid this is to either find one doctor who can perform all aspects of treatment or to have a team approach utilizing doctors who practice at the same location. This ensures good communication and proper planning for each step.

Implant dentistry has greatly improved over the past 30 years. If done correctly it is an extremely strong, predictable and reliable replacement for one tooth or many teeth.

Questions can be sent to Fred Eck, D.D.S. at Marco Dental Care, 950 N. Collier Blvd., Suite 305, Marco Island, or call 389-9400. Web site: marcodentalcare.com. Dr. Eck received his Doctor of Dental Surgery at the University of Detroit Mercy and is licensed by the Florida State Board of Dentistry.