Why You Should See a Periodontist for Dental Implants
Dental implants are the perfect solution for many who are missing one or more teeth, or who have experienced trauma, damaged teeth or extensive decay. Unlike partial or full dentures or individual bridgework, dental implants can last a lifetime. They can also look, work and feel just like a natural tooth, meaning you don’t have to be self-conscious about your smile or worry about complex removal and cleaning procedures and constant re-fittings.
Dental implants used to be an option only for “perfect candidates” and could take months to complete. However, now even patients who have experienced bone loss can be considered for implants since bone can be grafted or even re-grown to provide a solid foundation for the implants. For those who already have existing bone that is plentiful and strong enough for implants, placement can be done very quickly.
Long Island periodontist David R. Scharf, DMD, says, “Hundreds of patients have benefited from immediate-load implants or ‘teeth in an hour,’ and appreciate that they can enjoy their new teeth right away instead of waiting for weeks and weeks.”
Periodontists vs. General Dentists or Prosthodontists
There are two main steps to dental implants; first, the placing of the implant into the bone under the gum, and second, the restoration (creation and placement of the realistic looking crown on top of the implant). The success rate of dental implants is determined by three factors – the skill of the operator, the quantity and quality of bone at the implant site and the periodontal health of the patient.
For this reason, it is advisable to have a periodontist involved in any dental implant procedure. A periodontist can work to eliminate any gum disease or infection prior to placing dental implants, will have undergone specific training to place dental implants, and in some cases, will even be able to have the restoration created and placed.
In contrast, prosthodontists tend to specialize in more involved work, resolving problems caused by a misaligned jaw, creating prosthetics for victims of congenital problems or trauma and treating conditions such as sleep apnea. Some prosthodontists do full-mouth cosmetic reconstruction, including dental implants and tooth restorations, but they are usually sought out only for very difficult or complex cases, as their services may be more costly.
General dentists can train to place implants, but the success rate can vary if the training was not adequate. In contrast to a periodontist who receives three extra years of specialized training to learn how to place implants and treat gum disease, general dentists often are prompted by implant manufacturers to attend training offered by the company.
These weekend seminars are all that is currently required in many states to qualify a general dentist to place implants. Unfortunately, in many cases, this training is inadequate, and the dentist then is forced to “practice” on their own patients. The risks of having an under-qualified dentist place your dental implants increase sharply if there is any sort of complication with hard or soft tissue, as the seminars cannot adequately cover real life medical situations.
The widely varied levels of success for implants placed by underqualified providers means that questions about proper training should be asked before having any dentist place implants. To be fair, plenty of general dentists have expended time and resources to achieve proper implant training. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what kind of training they received, and how many successful implant patients they have worked on.
Periodontists and Dental Implants
When you visit a periodontist to consult about dental implants, you may be there on a referral from a general dentist or you may have selected a periodontist as your primary provider of dental care. A periodontist can help you ensure that your gum health is optimal before starting the implant process, which will cut down on the chances of inflammation or infection.
If there is insufficient bone in the jaw to support implants, a periodontist is also trained and qualified to do bone grafts. Sterilized human bone from a bone bank can be grafted onto existing bone, and this stimulates new bone growth as well. After the bone has sufficient bulk and density, the implants can be placed and restorative crowns added to create a perfect smile.
Many periodontists who place dental implants have sophisticated equipment designed to map the mouth and determine the proper placement of each implant. The periodontist can do the work “virtually” at first, then do all of the needed implants in one visit.
In contrast to “cut-and-stitch” implant surgery, where long periods of healing are required before the implants can be covered with restorative crowns, today many implants can be placed and the restoration done the same day with no cutting or stitching of the gums required.
Your periodontist may coordinate with a prosthodontist for creation of the replacement tooth or teeth, or may be equipped to create the crowns themselves. In either case, temporary restorations can in most cases be applied so you don’t have to suffer without teeth while waiting for your permanent tooth replacements to be created.
Deciding whether to use a general dentist, a periodontist or a prosthodontist for dental implants is a personal decision. However, a periodontist is often the best choice, as they are equipped to not only deal with the technical side of dental implant placement, but are also specifically trained to ensure your gum health is appropriate for implant surgery.