One stop shop in dentistry

As a society we have become accustomed to the convenience of shopping under one roof, whether it be the big super centers where is seems that anything and everything is for sale or the shopping malls where we can shop till we drop.

There are obvious advantages to the ‘all under one roof’ approach, however, sometimes the benefit of convenience leaves us lacking. Does the staff member that is working have the extent of knowledge that we are looking for, do they know the difference between the cuts of meat and what would be recommended for certain recipes, do they know what polenta is and where it would be found, is the product we are looking for actually available in store?

Sometimes we really do need to make the effort and seek out the specialty store, the one that knows exactly what we require and how to use it, the staff member who seems to know more about the product than the manufacturer, and gives us a pearl or two of their wisdom and experience that saves both time and money.

Dentistry is a broad subject that is broken down into a number of disciplines. The maintenance and health of the periodontal structures, the preservation and care of the teeth, the skill and expertise of surgery, the patience and attention to detail for endodontics,  the design and imagination for orthodontic care, and the familiarity of pathology.  The general dental practitioner has been trained to deal with all of these disciplines and has a general knowledge of each of them.  They are the superstore for dental health, they have a good selection available they are able to supply most of the essentials and information needed to keep our dental health in good standing.

However, there are times that the general dental practitioner’s capability is exceeded and that is when the additional training and skill of the specialist dental professional is essential to give the patient the best outcome.

A specialist is someone who has specific and exceptional knowledge and competence relating to a particular job and area of study.

Your dentist refers a patient to an Oral Surgeon because they acknowledge that it will offer the patient the opportunity to be treated by someone who is a specialist in the surgical treatment of the mouth, head and neck.

An Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (Oral Surgeon) has attended and graduated from an accredited dental school, they have also completed an additional 4 years of hospital based training.  The Oral Surgeon will have been trained in a variety of different medical areas including, but not limited to, general surgery, anesthesiology, internal medicine, emergency medicine, ICU, ENT and plastic surgery. After this their specialized training related to the head and neck will be completed. This training will include;

*Dental Implant Surgery  *Bone Grafting  *Wisdom Tooth Removal  *Facial Trauma  *Pathology *Facial Reconstruction  *TMJ Surgery  *Corrective Jaw Surgery  *Facial Cosmetic Surgery

Once qualified to practice as an Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon they will have the opportunity to show their expertise further by becoming A Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon. The process to become Board Certified is long and requires a lot more study (so not all Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons will choose to do this.)

To apply to become a Board Certified the Oral Surgeon must submit evidence of extensive surgical experience, once the application has been accepted there is an exhaustive written examination encapsulating the considerable subject of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. If the written exam is passed a lengthy oral examination is undertook, when this is passed the Oral Surgeon is now certified as a Diplomat of the American Board if Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, which is the highest requirement of competency within the discipline of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Many general dental practitioners now have the opportunity to take day and weekend courses to expand their knowledge and scope of practice. They are shown in 2 days how to place a dental implant, and are then able to offer to patients ‘under the same roof’ dental implant and restoration. The thought process for this is to save the patient both the time and effort it would require to be seen by the Board Certified Oral Surgeon by having the dental implant placed and restored by the general dental practitioner.

There are obviously times that this works and works well, the implant is placed and restored beautifully, there are no complications, the implant is angled correctly, the integrity of the bone is not compromised and the gum tissue heals perfectly. The time when the superstore does know what we are looking for, has it in stock and has the knowledge to impart.

There are, nonetheless, times that a ‘simple’ case becomes complicated because implant was placed in an imperfect position that the bone health is endangered and gum tissue is receding, these are the cases where the general dental practitioner has exceeded their experience and is going to look to the specialist to help recover, replace, restore, and reassure.

It is good to remember that the specialist dental practitioner, such as a Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, has a valid and necessary position in the dental community.