In an ideal world, patients would see their general dentists twice a year for routine cleanings and checkups. However, procedures like filling cavities and performing root canals may call for additional visits to a dentist's chair. And more advanced treatments sometimes require the touch and expertise of a specialist. For a dental implant procedure, that professional is called an implantologist.
Dental Implant Basics
Dental implants provide the foundation for mounting replacement teeth in the mouth. An implant consists of a metal post that must be surgically secured in the jawbone and surrounded by healthy bone and gum tissue before it can be topped with a crown. An implant may support a single tooth or multiple teeth through custom-made bridges and dentures, reports the American Dental Association. Implants are not removable and will stay securely in place while you chew, talk and eat.
Placing an implant is a delicate and multistep surgical process, and not all dentists have the special training. Your dentist will tell you if they are able to perform an implant procedure in the office. If not, they may refer you to an implantologist.
Dental implants can be placed by periodontists, reports the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), or by oral and maxillofacial surgeons, explains the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Both types of dental professionals have specialized training in the field of implant placement. General dentists may also place implants, so long as they complete additional training to qualify as implantologists.
If you're looking for an accredited implantologist, you might consider turning to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID). The AAID can help you find a dental professional in your area, prepare to ask the right questions about the procedure and learn about every step in the process.
AAID implantologists can attain different levels of certification. An Associate Fellow will have met the following requirements (besides being a licensed dentist):
- 300 hours of continuing education related to implant dentistry or graduation from a periodontal, oral and maxillofacial surgery or prosthodontics program
- Surgical experience in placing implants, including competency in three types of cases
- Completion of written and oral exams in implant dentistry
To qualify as a Fellow, the requirements increase, including at least 400 hours of continuing education and at least five years of experience practicing implant dentistry.
An even higher honor is to become a Diplomate of the American Board of Oral Implantology/Implant Dentistry. Becoming a Diplomate is the most rigorous of certifications. These dental professionals have practiced implant dentistry for at least seven years. Candidates must also have completed implant procedures for at least 75 patients, in addition to passing a two-part exam.
Do You Need Implants?
Dental implants are an option if you need to replace one or more missing teeth. Your dentist will first assess whether your mouth can handle implants. You should have healthy gums and enough bone to anchor the implants, according to the AAP.
After the procedure is complete, an implant patient will have to commit to a daily oral care regimen that includes brushing and flossing. It is critical to take good care of the replacement teeth and the surrounding gums to prevent implant failure.
Your oral health is in good hands when you seek out a dental professional with the expertise to meet your needs. If you think you might need implants, schedule a consultation with your dentist.