Dental implant education — what you and your patients deserve

Steven A. Enea, DDS
Editor’s Intro: Dr. Steven Enea offers insights into how continuing education provides knowledge of implants that can increase your practice’s success.

In 1987, by the grace of God, I graduated from dental school. I’ve witnessed many transitions in dentistry during my school years and so, so many since. In 1984, we were not wearing gloves, and masks were optional. Composites were one shade and a two-mix system, and implants were in their infancy (for modern times). I remember the first video (yes, we had Beta or VHS) I watched on the placement of a sub-periosteal implant and thought to myself, No way, this will never work — and what time is my next amalgam?

Fast-forward to today where implant dentistry is an integral part of my practice and should be an integral part of every dentist’s practice whether restorative, surgical, or both. Every U.S.-trained dentist graduates from school with basic knowledge of all the disciplines of dentistry; however, surgical implantology has only recently come into the routine of the general practice. I for one applaud this development.

If you are restoring implants, then you know the pain of trying to restore an implant that was well integrated but lacked restorative vision. Besides the obvious shortcomings in function and/or esthetics, now you sometimes have to tell the patient that the “Chiclet®” in the front of his/her mouth looks the way it does because of the extreme angle and shallow placement of the implant. You can imagine how things go after that. Thankfully, many new materials, techniques, protocols, and equipment are constantly being created to help prevent issues such as this.

With the benefits come the challenges — it is almost daunting to keep up with this technological explosion, but also exhilarating. The popularity of 3D scanners has taken implantology to a level of predictability not seen before with 2D radiography. Root-form implants boast a success rate of 98%. In 2000, L-PRF was showing some incredible healing properties at a surgical clinic in France, and it has now become one of the most popular trends in dentistry. The development of different types of allograft and xenograft materials has given the provider ways to graft without donor sites. These developments, which are not all inclusive, have helped make the discipline of implantology more accessible and predictable.

My advice for any dentist, new or seasoned, who may be restoring an occasional implant or not restoring at all, is to seek out dental implant education on both the surgical and restorative sides. There are so many excellent resources to gain that keeping educated becomes a little overwhelming. My recommendation would be to take a hands-on course with live patients that is steeped in the didactics. You will not regret this. Even if you don’t plan to place implants, you will be better prepared for the scenario above and have a better understanding of why and how implants are placed as they are. You will even notice that your patients have a different attitude when coming in to have a tooth replaced with an implant versus a Class II restoration! They are motivated, happy to be there, and willing to do what it takes to get their tooth/teeth back. Studying and practicing implantology has changed the way I do dentistry. It has added a new dimension that allows me to offer my patients a predictable, long-lasting way to replace missing teeth and restore their dentition that is on the cutting edge of dentistry. After all, isn’t that what our patients deserve?

Steven A. Enea, DDS

Dr. Ara Nazarian also believes that increasing knowledge of implants can boost your practice’s treatment options. Read more in his article “Implants and the spirit of inventiveness” here.

Steven A. Enea, DDS, received his dental degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In 1990, he entered the U.S. Navy, where he served as the Dental Department head aboard the USS Seattle AOE3, Force Dental Officer for the U.S. Antarctic Program, and was assigned as the Dental Officer for the Blue Angels. In 2001, Dr. Enea exited the Navy for private practice. He then went into the Air Force Reserves in 2006 and has served as the Surgeon General Dentist at Peterson AFB, and is now Officer in Charge of Dental at Buckley AFB for the Colorado Air National Guard. Dr. Enea is on faculty with Implant Pathways.

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