Implantology is an exciting and rewarding branch of dentistry and the patient benefits are considerable. The educational pathway chosen by the dental practitioner needs careful thought. Not only does the practice of implant dentistry require a level of competence in the surgical and restorative aspects of treatment, the successful implantologist also needs to build up and maintain an efficient team infrastructure and accompanying digital workflow. Putting the patient at the heart of this infrastructure and workflow is key, with good communication being critical to treatment plan acceptance.
Unsurprisingly then, implant dentistry embraces a broad spectrum of approaches and applications which require a variety of clinical and non-clinical skills. The clinician needs to acquire familiarity with subjects and disciplines as diverse as anatomy, radiology, treatment planning and patient marketing. Considerations range from the aesthetic and functional drivers for a single tooth implant case, through to the technical requirements necessary to support a full arch rehabilitation, and designing a patient journey which maximises conversion rates.
Within this context, choosing the right course to suit your particular learning objectives, is of paramount importance. Here are my five top questions to ask before taking the plunge:
What type of course would best suit my aims?
Education and training opportunities range from short courses on specific techniques, through to certificate and year-long programmes, as well as registrable diplomas such as the Diploma in Implant Dentistry offered by the Faculty of General Dental Practice of the Royal College of Surgeons, and numerous MSc programmes delivered across the UK. Although comprehensive in subject matter, commercial courses tend to be implant specific. While they provide a good foundation, they may limit the range of clinical options open to you as you progress through your career. Meanwhile, MSc programmes tend to be highly research based and theoretical.
When researching all of the options, it is important you define your objectives from the outset, and understand how the balance of theory and practice on offer can help deliver them. The course format may determine how fast you will learn. Thinking about how you best assimilate knowledge may guide your choice – are you someone who likes to get hands on as early as possible, or are you more inspired by listening to or observing the grand masters? How important is networking with fellow students, for instance? Be clear about your learning goals.
How will I be supported through mentoring during and after the course?
It has been 15 years since the Faculty of General Dental Practice (FGDP UK) published its guidelines ‘Training Standards in Implant Dentistry ’ which govern the standards necessary for training and provision of implant dentistry. The standards are also used by the General Dental Council to review patient complaints where dentists have practised implant dentistry beyond the scope of their competence. A review in 2018 highlighted the need for mentoring for implant placement to be standardised. The FGDP UK is currently working with the Association of Dental Implantology to set out more detailed requirements. Thankfully, times are changing, but many students are still left feeling unable to go anywhere for practical support and one-to-one guidance after completion of their formal training. Find a course with a flexible approach to long-term mentoring and support - for your first implant case and beyond.
What insights can my teachers impart?
The range of tutors, speakers and mentors on your programme is likely to be an important factor in the insights and knowledge you gain. It can be helpful to learn from clinicians who have used a range of implant systems; they can explain the relative benefits and features of each system for different clinical indications. Searching for a course offering a line-up of speakers from different countries, traditions and practice philosophies will also help you gain a broader spectrum of insights from their unique experiences. Learning from your tutors’ reflective practiceis an important step and will enrich your experience as a student. Research your course tutors and programme speakers to gain a sense of the likely range of perspectives on offer.
Which course best fits with my work-life balance?
Time, financial, personal and other commitments will all influence your decision. What intensity and duration would be best for your professional situation and home life? The location of the training may have a bearing on convenience and accessibility. Carefully assess and plan the commitment of energy and time needed for the duration of your chosen course to check you are ready to maximise the benefits.
What type of business do I want to be in for the future?
Reflecting on the type of dentistry you would like to dedicate your time to, and the kind of practice ethos and patient experience you wish to create, may help you determine how your education needs can be best structured and delivered. Good patient communication and acceptance is at the core of a successful implant business. Access to learning that covers the non-clinical aspects of the business of implants, may be instrumental to your commercial as well as clinical success. Think strategically about your longer term goals as a dental professional and how the learning experience will contribute to these.
The demand for implant treatment is rapidly growing, as more and more people with missing or failing natural teeth become aware of the benefits of being able to eat, talk, laugh and smile with implant-supported restorations. As dentists providing this treatment option, the commitment is not inconsiderable, yet the rewards are many! Choosing the appropriate educational pathway will ensure you step out in the right direction at the beginning of your journey.
The Dental Routes 2022 Certificate in Dental Implantology takes place from 6 April to 30 November 2022. For more information and prospectus, call Ruby Kenward at +44 7830 814625 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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