How Does An Implan­tol­o­gist Dif­fer From A Gen­er­al Dentist?

If you decide you would like to explore den­tal implants as a treat­ment option for miss­ing teeth, your den­tist might rec­om­mend a refer­ral to an implan­tol­o­gist. This can be a daunt­ing prospect, par­tic­u­lar­ly if you are already famil­iar with your den­tist and would like to con­tin­ue your course of treat­ment with them.

However, a referral to an implantologist might be a positive thing, and it could result in an improved outcome for your treatment plan. In this guide, we’re looking at the difference between an implantologist and a regular dentist, and why you need to pick the former for your dental implant treatment.

What is an implantologist?

An implantologist is a specialist dentist who has undertaken additional training to learn more about how to place and maintain implants. They also carry out other surgical procedures that might be necessary before and after implants, including bone grafts and gum grafts.

All implantologists start with the same training as a dentist, and many will work as a regular practice dentist before choosing to specialise. Just as your dentist might choose to specialise in orthodontics (braces) they might also choose to specialise in implant placement.

By focusing on this single branch of dentistry, they can offer better outcomes to their patients. The training to become an implantologist is extensive, and requires years of training on top of the standard dental training.

What does an implantologist do?

An implantologist will spend most of their day consulting with new patients, creating treatment plans, placing dental implants and providing follow-up support for patients with new dental implants.

In some cases, an implantologist will only place implants and they will have a team of dental staff and treatment coordinators to help organise patients and provide aftercare support.

Implantologists will generally carry out the following tasks as part of their daily workload:

  • Meeting with patients and discussing treatment options

  • Taking X-rays and CT scans

  • Using scans and digital imaging to create treatment plans

  • Placing dental implants, abutments and final crown or denture restorations

  • Carrying out bone grafting where necessary

  • Providing aftercare support in person and over the phone

  • Refer patients for other treatments to support their treatment plan

Once you have dental implants, you can either choose to return to your implantologist for checkups, or return to your usual routine dentist. Both will be qualified to provide ongoing advice and support, but your implantologist will be more familiar with your case.

Who can call themselves an implantologist?

In order for a dentist to call themselves an implantologist, they need to have completed a relevant course in implantology. This is usually an MSc or PgDip level qualification that takes between 18 months and 3 years to complete. In addition to this training, implantologists also need to have a minimum level of experience before starting the course.

Only those with a postgraduate qualification may call themselves an implantologist. There are shorter courses available that will provide dentists with the information they need to be able to place dental implants, but this typically takes place over a few days.

Note that no dentist is allowed to call themselves a “dental implant specialist” or any other made up title. This is in accordance with marketing guidelines set by the General Dental Council (GDC). If they specialise in an area of dentistry and have the relevant qualifications, they may say they are a specialist in specific areas. But using terms like “dental implant specialist” is not allowed.

Is an implantologist better than a dentist?

If you are looking for dental implant treatment, you will always be better seeking out the support of an implantologist for your treatment. However, you still need to assess the experience and qualifications of this individual and not simply take the title of “implantologist” as sufficient proof of their skills.

Alongside information about their training, you should also ask your implant dentist about their experience placing dental implants. Ask about their success rate and how long they have been offering the treatment. You could also ask for patient testimonials or for case studies of previous cases.

If you have a more complex case, ask your implantologist about their experience dealing with cases similar to yours. If you are speaking to multiple implantologists, you’ll soon learn that there can be vast differences in the experience and skills available.

What if I see an implantologist overseas?

We know all too well about the pressures on patients to seek out overseas treatment as a cost-saving measure. In short, we wouldn’t recommend it. Your dentist might be described as an implantologist, but there will be no way to verify their credentials as they are not governed by the General Dental Council.

It’s also possible that you could meet with a qualified implantologist, but then your treatment is actually completed by a trainee under their supervision. And once you return to the UK, your usual dentist might not be able to support you if something goes wrong with your treatment. Instead, they may only be able to remove the implats, which will put you back where you started, minus thousands of pounds.

When would it be better to see a dentist?

If you are thinking about dental implants but aren’t sure if this treatment is right for you, this could be an ideal opportunity to ask your usual dentist for advice. They can help you to explore the treatment options available to you in a low-pressure environment.

Booking an appointment with an implantologist can involve a consultation fee, so you can save yourself money in the early stages by discussing this with your dentist during your routine checkup.

If your usual dentist offers dental implants but they are not listed as an implantologist, this could also be an excellent option. You already know the dentist and their practice, and they know you and your history.

Lots of patients aren’t even aware of the extra services that their dentist could provide. So, if you’re thinking about dental implants, the best place to start is with your own dentist. You might not be aware that they already offer this service.