Dental implants are a great tooth replacement option. They look and perform like natural teeth, can last a lifetime, and have a very high success rate. But that high success rate depends highly on the experience of the surgeon, according to a recent study.
Success of Immediate Loading Dental Implants
The study was a 1- to 10-year retrospective of dental implant cases performed by twenty implant dentists, two of whom were highly experienced and 18 of whom were inexperienced (graduate students). Overall, the dental implant survival rate was about 90%, but this was composed of two very different failure rates depending on the experience of the surgeon.
The study found that the failure rate for inexperienced surgeons was 12.2%, compared to only 2.4% for the experienced surgeons. This huge difference is greater than the risk many studies cite for smoking. Partly the difference is due to the fact that this study looked at very inexperienced surgeons, but this isn’t the only study to find that the surgeon’s experience is one of the biggest factors in success of dental implants.
Fifty Cases to Proficiency?
One of the most commonly cited figures for selecting an implant dentist is that surgeons who have performed less than 50 cases typically have a failure rate twice that of surgeons who have performed more than 50 cases. This isn’t a hard-and-fast number. For example, some suggest that the first nine cases are significantly worse than those that follow, but after nine the failure rates do not differ appreciably.
Other studies point to the importance of experience, but it seems like the 50 case rule is a somewhat arbitrary figure.
Ask Your Implant Dentist about Experience
Although there isn’t a single figure we can point to that gives confidence in the success of dental implants, it is important to talk to your implant dentist about experience. Here are some guidelines for making your decision:
Look for dentists who have undergone postgraduate training in dental implants, either in a separate course or as part of periodontist training
Ask dentists about their number of cases and their success rate
As to talk to patients who had their implants placed five years or more ago
It’s important to talk to patients who had their implants placed years ago to get a better idea of an implant dentist’s long-term success rate.