Prosthodontist or Oral Surgeon: Who Should Do Your Dental Implants?

Published February 15, 2024

Ever wondered who’s the go-to pro for dental implants? It’s not your regular dentist. Dental implants require a specialized skill set that not all dentists have. This is where prosthodontists and oral surgeons step in.

Prosthodontists are the architects of the dental world. They’re the ones who design and oversee the creation of tooth replacements, like implants. On the other hand, oral surgeons are the builders. They’re the ones who physically install these implants into your jaw.

It’s important to know who does what so you can make informed decisions about your dental health. After all, you wouldn’t want a plumber wiring your house, right? Same goes for your teeth. You want the right professional for the job.

What are dental implants?

Before we dive into who’s best equipped to handle dental implants, it’s crucial to understand what dental implants are. These roots’ artificial replacements are the first step in replacing a missing tooth or teeth.

An implant involves a titanium post acting as a tooth root, surgically positioned into the jawbone beneath the gum line. After the implant is in place and the bone around it has healed, a process known as osseointegration, a replacement tooth can be mounted onto it. The primary aim behind dental implant use is to restore as much function as possible, and thus, improve the patient’s quality of life.

Dental implants are unique in that they can provide support for other dental prostheses such as crowns, implant-supported bridges or dentures, helping to solve any potential problems resulting from a missing tooth or teeth. One of the foremost benefits of implants is that they do not require altering other teeth to provide support, unlike bridges.

While embracing the dental implant process, keep in mind that maintaining healthy gums and bone structure of the mouth is crucial. My patients often ask: “Doctor, why can’t we just get a bridge or dentures?” Yes, only a dental professional can determine if you are appropriate for a dental implant. However, they are now considered the gold standard for tooth replacement because they feel more natural and are less likely to lead to further tooth loss.

Understanding the basic functionality and benefits of implants sets a solid foundation to select the right professional for the job, be it an oral surgeon or a prosthodontist. Grasping the subsequent steps and approaches used by each will ultimately lend clarity to the decision-making process when pursuing dental implants. It’s not about which one is better overall; it’s about determining which one is better for your specific needs.

Why do dental implants require a specialized dentist?

When discussing the role of a dentist in implant procedures, it’s crucial to uncover why such a task isn’t a job for just any practicing dentist. Dental implant treatment requires a specific set of skills, extensive training, and profound experience under their belt.

Dental implant treatment involves the surgical insertion of a titanium post into the jawbone. My years of experience have taught me that this isn’t a task to be taken lightly. Performing such a procedure requires precision and an in-depth understanding of the patient’s oral anatomy.

Moreover, proficiency in surgical procedures is a necessity. Trust me, I’ve seen it all – even the simplest of implant processes could get complicated if not approached correctly. The risk of nerve damage or the implant failing to fuse with the bone is high if performed by someone not properly trained or experienced.

You may think, ‘But isn’t every dentist trained in surgery?’. Yes, but oral surgery is a specialty field hiding a whole different ball game. An implant surgeon, for instance, spends extra years in training to specialize in aspects like bone grafting, sinus lifts, implant positioning, and designing the final restoration.

So indeed, all dentists aren’t alike when it comes to dental implants. Here’s a comparison of the different kinds of dental professionals typically involved in implant treatment:

Dental Professional Role in Implant Treatment
General Dentist May perform basic placement if they have additional training
Prosthodontist Specialize in designing the artificial teeth
Oral Surgeon Expert at placing the implant and handling complex surgeries

A good dental implant treatment team indeed often involves more than one professional. They work together, each bringing a unique set of skills to the table, to ensure you receive the best care possible. While general dentists can perform basic implant placement, the complicated cases often require the expertise of a prosthodontist or an oral surgeon.

So, the importance of having a specialized dentist cannot be understated, and this comes down to the complexity involved within the overall treatment plan itself. The diversity of the work requires diverse expertise and thus, having a specialized dentist is more a necessity than a luxury when it comes to dental implants.

The role of prosthodontists in dental implants

Prosthodontists play a significant role in the area of dental implants. Prosthodontists are dental specialists who are extensively trained in replacing missing teeth and repairing damaged teeth. They’ve undergone additional training beyond general dentistry, equipping them to deal with complex dental conditions.

A key aspect of prosthodontists’ work revolves around creating the prosthetic elements used in dental implants. An implant-supported crown or bridge, for instance, are often the handiwork of these specialists. Apart from their creation, prosthodontists are responsible for ensuring that these dental prostheses fit perfectly inside the mouth. It’s their duty to guarantee the implants look natural and are comfortable to wear.

Their role doesn’t end with fitting the prosthesis. Regular follow-ups are a major part of a prosthodontist’s job. Adjustment of the prosthesis, assessing oral health and monitoring the durability and functionality of the implant, all fall under a prosthodontist’s purview.

It’s worth noting that while prosthodontists do have the skills to place dental implants, in more complex cases, they prefer to team up with oral surgeons. For instance, cases involving severe bone loss may require an oral surgeon’s help. The prosthodontist collaborates with the oral surgeon, formulating the most effective treatment plan.

In the collaborative process, the oral surgeon will handle the surgical elements of the implant process while the prosthodontist focuses on the prosthetic components. This teamwork ensures that the patient gets the most comprehensive care possible, combining skills and expertise from two medical specialities.

A prosthodontist’s role spans from initial consultation, through the creation and fitting of the prosthesis, right to post-implant care. Their profession uniquely combines the aesthetic aspects of dentistry with the functional, delivering an end product that is not just aesthetically appealing but also fits comfortably and works optimally.

Professional as they are, prosthodontists embody the maxim ‘precision is key.’ You can trust that they’ll treat your dental implant needs with the utmost care and expertise, delivering the best possible results to restore your smile.

The role of oral surgeons in dental implants

The dental implant process isn’t just about replacing a missing tooth with a shiny new one. There’s a crucial surgical component involved that requires highly specialized dentistry skills. This is where an oral surgeon, an unsung hero in the dental world, plays a significant part.

As already discussed, dental implants involve the insertion of a titanium post into the jawbone. The oral surgeons step in here, leveraging their expertise in the area of surgery. With extensive training in surgeries of the mouth, jaw, and face, they’re proficient in handling complex dental implant procedures.

An oral surgeon, or an ‘oral and maxillofacial surgeon’ in the full professional parlance, undergoes rigorous training beyond dental school. Usually, this involves a 4-6 year residency in a hospital-based surgical program. It’s this intensive, specific training that equips them to deal with all surgical issues related to dental implants.

Placing a dental implant might seem like a straightforward task. But it’s definitely not just drilling a hole and popping in the implant. The oral surgeon must assess the patient’s specific needs, evaluate the condition of the jawbone, decide the optimal placement of the implant, and perform the procedure while avoiding vital structures like nerves and sinuses. If the jawbone isn’t thick enough to support dental implants, the oral surgeon might need to perform a bone graft, an additional procedure that requires another level of skill and expertise.

One key aspect of their role is managing and minimizing potential complications. Dental implant surgery, like any other surgery, has potential risks such as infection, implant failure, or nerve damage. The oral surgeon’s detailed understanding of facial and oral anatomy coupled with their surgical expertise significantly reduces these risks.

Lastly, they’re also instrumental in the collaborative nature of dental implant procedures. High-level cooperation and communication with the prosthodontist ensures seamless integration of the surgical and prosthetic components, promising the patient a dental implant that feels as natural as possible.

As we can see, the role of the oral surgeon in dental implants is not to be undermined. From initial assessment to final placement, their contribution is pivotal to ensuring successful dental implant procedures.

Making informed decisions about your dental health

Bearing in mind the prevalence and benefits of dental implants, you might find yourself at a junction where you need to make an informed decision about your dental health. With your knowledge about the process behind dental implants, you’re now ready to tackle the choices that lie ahead. Familiarize yourself with the professionals involved in the procedure to make the best decision for your smile.

It’s crucial to remember, when considering dental implants, one size does not fit all. The procedure varies depending on the individual’s mouth structure, any existing health conditions, and personal oral health history. Hence, understanding the role of prosthodontists and oral surgeons in dental implants can guide you in the right direction.

While both the prosthodontists and oral surgeons work in tandem during dental implant procedures, identifying who to initially turn to depends on the complexity of your case. For simple procedures where adequate jawbone exists to support the implant, general dentists or prosthodontists suffice. However, for more complex situations where grafts or additional surgeries may be required, it’s essential to consult an oral surgeon.

Furthermore, acknowledging that dental implants require specialized skills and extensive training can help you make an informed decision about the right dental health professional for your needs. Keep in mind that there are risks involved, like nerve damage and implant failure, so it’s vital to entrust your oral health to a properly trained and experienced professional.

Finally, don’t hesitate to have comprehensive consultations and discussions with both prosthodontists and oral surgeons. Mutual understanding and communication, coupled with collaborative advanced treatment planning, lie at the core of superior aesthetic and functional outcomes.

Remember that these decisions about your dental health can have long-lasting implications. The better informed you are, the more likely you are to make a choice that benefits your overall health and wellbeing. Educate yourself and make the best decision for your smile.


It’s clear that both prosthodontists and oral surgeons play vital roles in the process of dental implants. Their specialized skills and extensive training ensure the best possible outcome for patients. Depending on the complexity of the case, you may need the expertise of an oral surgeon or the finesse of a prosthodontist. Remember, dental implants are the gold standard in tooth replacement, providing a natural feel and preventing further tooth loss. So don’t rush the decision. Take your time, consult with professionals, and make an informed choice that suits your unique needs. After all, it’s your smile that’s at stake.

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