Dental Implant Team
For dental implant treatments to be successful and effective, a team of dental specialists collaborates to design and implement an optimal treatment plan, and the implant recipient adheres to all recommendations for preparation and aftercare. Effective communication is the best way to achieve this success. Dental implant treatment includes radiographic images, like x-rays; at least one surgical procedure, which will necessitate some type of anesthesia; and design capabilities, like designing and crafting dental restorations that are aesthetically pleasing, well-fitting, and functional. Some implant treatments may require additional procedures as well. While some general dentists may perform simpler restorations on their own, it is more likely that a dental implant team, made up of a restorative dentist working with specialists in different areas, will coordinate and execute dental implant procedures throughout the entire treatment process.
At the initial consultation, your dentist will review the various treatment options that may exist for your specific needs. A few different types of dentists can be qualified to perform dental implant surgery, including periodontists, general practitioners, prosthodontists, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons; traditionally, a significant majority of dental implant surgeries are performed by oral and maxillofacial surgeons. In collaboration with a surgeon, you and your restorative dentist will decide on a personalized plan. Preceding implant surgery, patients must have x-ray images taken of their mouths and teeth; some cases also require 3D x-rays or other computer-generated images to facilitate optimally effective surgical treatment. While the implants are healing, which can take up to 6 months, many patients use a temporary crown or bridge to protect the surgical site and allow them to smile and eat comfortably while awaiting their permanent restoration. Once the implant has fully healed and successfully fused with the jawbone, your restorative dentist will craft your dental restoration or work with a lab that constructs these prosthetic devices and then place your permanent crown or restoration. Treatment therefore usually requires the following specialists: a restorative dentist, a surgical specialist, a variety of lab technicians, a dental hygienist, and a dental assistant. Dental business staff is included in the team, and, if needed, an endodontist or orthodontist may also be a team member. Communications among all team members and between the team and the patient are integral to the success of dental implant treatment.
Dental implants have increased in popularity in recent years, and, due to the rising number of older people in the United States, implants can be expected to continue to grow in popularity. As implants become more popular, implant manufacturers continue to innovate and create increasingly convenient, comfortable, and attractive restoration options, and the success rates of dental implants also continue to rise. Of course, with increased innovation comes an increased need for understanding and effective communication throughout treatment, and with increased popularity comes an increased need for thorough and informed patient selection.
The restorative dentist is usually the implant team coordinator at the outset of a dental implant treatment plan. The restorative dentist works with the dental hygienist and dental assistant to screen possible implant patients and determine eligibility for implant treatment. This team coordinator must understand the nuances of each patient’s treatment, identifying any surgical considerations that must be addressed. The team coordinator will also refer the patient to the appropriate member of the implant team as needed, in addition to coordinating surgical placement and restorative treatment and designing and implementing a comprehensive dental implant treatment plan.
Dental hygienists are uniquely positioned to play a significant role on the dental implant team. Dental hygienists have well-established relationships with patients and are familiar with each patient’s medical history and oral hygiene habits, allowing them to play a key role in patient selection in particular. Dental hygienists can provide valuable patient information to a prospective implant team, ruling out implant treatment for patients with established risks and working with primary dentists to screen for any anatomical or medical impediments that may interfere with a successful implant treatment. Dental hygienists can also provide instruction for effective maintenance following a dental implant procedure and can supply information to patients leading up to a dental implant surgery. While the restorative dentist is the team leader during the planning and treatment phases of an implant procedure, the dental hygienist can take over the role of team coordinator once the procedure is completed and continue to provide care and maintenance instruction to the patient, communicating with other team members as needed.
Following implant placement, the dental hygienist will thoroughly assess the patient at each dental visit. The frequency of these follow-up visits will be determined during treatment planning by the participating dentists and the dental hygienist. At each visit, the dental hygienist will conduct a brief interview, asking about any pain or discomfort that may be present and reporting findings to the dentist. They will also check for implant mobility and assess the tissue adjacent to the surgical site to ensure that no infection is present, and they will provide hygiene instruction as needed to ensure the continued health of the patient’s oral cavity. Dental hygienists may also provide information about specific types of toothbrushes, interdental cleaning aids, and cleaning methods that may work best for dental implant patients with varying needs. If necessary, the dental hygienist can also refer to the dentist or surgeon if x-rays or other images are required to thoroughly evaluate the health of the periodontium following surgery; while routine follow-up x-rays are reviewed periodically, they may be recommended more frequently in some cases. The dental hygienist will maintain communication with the surgeon for the period following dental implant surgery, ensuring a circle of continued communication and increasing the likelihood of a successful and satisfying dental implant treatment.