Before we start discussing specialists, it is important to clearly establish what dental implants are exactly. This is important because there are misconceptions about what they are. Go through the next paragraph to understand the most common misconception
What are Dental Implants?
Medically known as endosseous implants, they act as anchors on the jawbone, making it possible for dental prosthetics such as crowns, bridges, dentures, etc. to be installed. In most cases today, titanium screws are used for the purpose and in due time, the jawbone fuses with the metal to make the bond stronger. Most people mistake the prosthesis which is fitted on top of the screw to be the actual implant.
Are there Different Types of Implants?
Yes, dental implants vary from patient to patient depending on the purpose for which it is being implanted onto the patient’s jawbone in the first place. Each implant is customized to suit the patient’s specific needs and oral dimensions, so they are each unique.
Next, there is the difference in material. Titanium is the default choice now, but it is not the only option. Zirconia is another popular material of choice for implant construction. Some dentists may even provide their patients with the option to go with other, less commonly used materials.
Finally, there are the endosteal implants and subperiosteal implants. The distinction between these two is primarily done based on the location of the implant. Endosteal implants are implanted directly inside the jawbone, and this process remains the preferred method. The material fuses with the bone, making the bond stronger.
Subperiosteal implants are installed directly on the jawbone (often with the help of an additional metallic support fixture) because some patients do not have enough jawbone left for the implant to be placed inside for fusion. Subperiosteals are uncommon and only used when the dental surgeon does not have any other choice left. If someone with a denture requires an implant, a subperiosteal implant might be their best option.
Can Any Kind of Dentist Place Implants?
Any qualified dentist can be trained to place at least minor implants in/on a patient’s jaw. But that doesn’t mean everyone has that training. Very few dentists have the necessary training, experience, and/or qualifications to take on the more complicated dental implant work. Next, we will discuss the specialist dentists who are trained and equipped to handle different types of implants from the get-go.
Which Types of Dentists are Best Suited to Place Dental Implants?
There are three primary divisions in dentistry which deal with placing an implant and restoring the missing tooth/teeth. Others may also be capable of doing so, but the following three should be at the top of your list.
Maxillofacial or Oral Surgeons – Oral surgeons, aka maxillofacial surgeons are capable of handling more than just dental implants, but doing so is certainly part of their long list of surgical expertise which includes everything from dentoalveolar surgeries to growth removals. Due to their understanding of the human oral and facial structure, a maxillofacial surgeon should also be able to handle the more complicated implantation jobs. Which may require additional procedures such as a sinus lift or ridge splitting.
Periodontists – Periodontists are experts of the gum, and they have a complete understanding of the human oral structure as well. Their range of surgical skills may not be as extensive as that of a maxillofacial surgeon. But as far as implants are concerned, a periodontist is perfectly capable of handling regular, special, and failing (poorly installed implant) cases. Periodontists are trained specifically to handle surgeries of the gum and the jawbone as part of their job description.
Prosthodontists – After the implant has been placed and the screw has preferably fused with the bone, the prosthodontist is called in to do the rest. Their primary job is to restore the patient’s missing tooth/teeth with a prosthetic piece suited for aesthetic and functional purposes. Since even a slightly off-balance occlusal load can eventually damage the implant’s stability, this is an extremely delicate process.
Periodontists and oral surgeons are best qualified and trained to place implants. After an oral surgeon or a periodontist has placed the anchor (implant), that is when the prosthodontist’s job begins. Prosthodontists complete the restoration effort by placing the bridge or crown on top of the implant, while maintaining perfect balance and adjusting for additional problems such as a slightly misaligned implant.
It should be noted that despite implants not being on top of the services that people expect from a cosmetic dentist. They too might be able to place implants, if required. It all depends on the kind of training and experience they have had. For example, even maxillofacial surgeons often do cosmetic dental work. And a periodontist could also be an expert in smile design.