Dental Implants and Proper Training

Important article in USA Today, “Lack of training can be deadly in cosmetic surgery”, on severe complications in patients receiving cosmetic surgery by untrained doctors. It is an excellent article that brings some well needed awareness to this highly unregulated area in medicine. Practically any doctor can advertise and perform such procedures and they are not required to show any evidence of training or proficiency. This includes internists, general surgeons, OB-GYN’s, dermatologists, ENT, podiatrists, and oral surgeons. While some doctors complete rigorous and formal training programs in cosmetic surgery, many perform such procedures after taking weekend courses or through self education. Meanwhile patients do not know the difference and rarely ask key qualifying questions in choosing the right doctor. In-fact, many fall victim to alluring marketing and discount programs which is how untrained doctors compete with board-certified cosmetic surgeons. As the article says, many patients have compromised results and end up with range of complications from disfigurement to even death.

We see a very similar trend in dental implant surgery. Many dentists take weekend courses or simply dive into advanced surgical techniques like placement of dental implants, extraction of wisdom teeth and Botox injection without proper training and its understanding. The results are failed implants, infections, poor cosmetic results, and irreversible damage to patients’ jaw bone and gum tissue. How can a dentist become proficient in such advanced implant procedures over several weekend courses while oral surgeons or periodontists spend years studying it, practicing it, and literally immerse themselves in it! Go into forums such as dental town and read hundred of postings by dentists who have gotten themselves and their patients into trouble, asking for expert advice even on the most basic principles. It is frightening.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the only recognized dental specialists who, after completing dental school, are surgically trained in an American Dental Association-accredited hospital-based residency program for a minimum of four years. Along with Periodontists, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons are the Dental Implants Specialists who are trained after dental school to surgically place dental implants.  All Dentists are licensed to perform all dental related procedures including placing dental implants.

As the article recommends, patients need to ask key questions to cosmetic doctors or dentists and qualify them before granting them the permission to perform such critical procedures. Unfortunately, there are no regulations and it is ultimately the responsibility of the individual patient to make the right decisions.