Your Dental Implant Team
If you have decided to replace some or all of your missing teeth with dental implants, it will be important to have an experienced, capable oral health care team to achieve the best possible outcome. Dental implant surgery requires planning and coordination among several dental health care specialists who will work together to provide a personalized plan of care for you.
Who are the dental health care professionals who will help make your implants a success? This article will explain who may be on your team and what roles they play.
Your first step will be consulting with a general dentist who is experienced in assessing whether or not you are a good candidate for implants. This includes assessing the general health of your gums, jawbone, and surrounding teeth. A dental hygienist (discussed further in this article) will assist in this general assessment.
In uncomplicated cases—such as when there are no problems with the gums or the underlying bone, a general dentist may be able to perform the full implant procedure. In this case, your general dentist will serve as both the surgeon and the restorative specialist.
In more complicated cases, a general dentist may refer you to a more specialized surgeon or restorative specialist to place your implants.
The restorative dentist (who may also be your general dentist, depending on how complicated your specific situation is) serves as the primary “team coordinator” who will manage the process. Your restorative dentist will understand the surgical considerations for implant placement and also be able to refer you to other appropriate team members if necessary, such as an orthodontist or endodontist.
The restorative dentist is also responsible for the following aspects of your care:
- Planning and coordinating your surgery and surgical treatment plan
- Coordinating a comprehensive treatment plan for your implants once they are placed
- Communicating with other members of the team about your case when necessary
A dental nurse experienced in implant surgery and peri-operative care will assist your dentist/surgeon during the procedure.
You probably won’t meet your dental technician, but this person plays a critical role in a successful implant surgery outcome. A dental technician is the one who creates the implants and prosthetic teeth that your surgeon will place. It is critical that the implants are made from the proper materials and crafted specifically to fit your mouth, therefore, an experienced and capable dental technician is a very important part of the process.
The dental hygienist is an integral member of the dental implant team. Usually, the dental hygienist helps when assessing whether a patient is a good candidate for implants, assessing what kind of maintenance the patient will need to perform, and providing instruction on appropriate dental hygiene to keep the implants healthy.
It can be beneficial for the dental hygienist to observe the surgery, as once the case is completed, the dental hygienist can assume the role of care coordinator and keep the lines of communication open with the dentist or surgeon who placed the implants.
After the implants are placed and healed, the dental hygienist will discuss with you and the team how often you should return for hygiene maintenance visits. At each visit, a thorough assessment will be done. This will include:
- Asking you about the comfort of the implants and if you are experiencing any pain or sensitivity
- Checking to make sure the implants are stable—this will show whether or not a prosthetic is loose, if there is a problem with the structure of the implant itself, or if there are other concerns that require further investigation.
- Palpating and evaluating the tissue around and adjacent to the implant for infection or bleeding
- Checking for plaque
- Coordinating radiographs or, if requested by your dentist/surgeon, probing to assess the healing and stability of the implants
Your dental hygienist will share all clinical findings with your dentist or surgeon at the appointment.
Working With Your Team
You are also a very important part of your dental implant surgery team. You and your team are working together to ensure a successful dental implant procedure. Your role will be to work with your team by asking questions, following pre- and post-operative instructions, maintaining good oral hygiene, and bringing any issues you are having to the team’s attention promptly.
Throughout the process, good communication between all members of the team—including you—is imperative. By working together, you and your dental implant surgery team will have the greatest chances of a successful outcome.