So, why do an implant course? Jason Buglass, managing director of Dentale and Implantium, takes you through the options.
In October 2007 the General Dental Council, after grappling with the issue of specialist lists, concluded that anyone involved in the delivery of dental implantology to the general public must demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of competence. As the undergraduate educational experience is polarised to preparing graduates to survive in the generality of primary care dentistry, the only option for the general practitioner to acquire the necessary skills is to attend an appropriate course.
Courses vary in their content and design, so prospective candidates should consult the Training Standards in Implant Dentistry document produced by the Faculty of General Dental Practice, to see whether their ultimate aims and objectives can be achieved. As more and more practitioners offer the service and the patient population has access to an increasing body of knowledge and evidence, prospective implant clinicians need to attain a significant level of skill to be competitive in today’s market. Consequently, course content and design details are crucial when assessing the choices, especially if you are starting the journey from the bottom rung on the ladder.
Educational journeys such as implant courses serve many purposes in the enrichment of a clinician’s professional portfolio. Course activity provides the impetus to acquire additional clinical skills and more often than not, ignites the elements of discovery which have been part of a dentists life since entering dental school.
It is likely that the recognition of individuals capable of delivering dental implantology will follow the same line of approval as the ‘dentists with special interest’ negotiations forged half a decade ago. The underlying requirements will be two-fold; 1) to be a proficient generalist with all round competency in dental skills, knowledge and attitudes into which, 2) a clinical skill such as dental implantology learnt under controlled conditions, such as an appropriate course, will dovetail and augment. These qualities of integration are vital and courses addressing these aspects will provide for authoritative guidance. Although there are costs both in time and finance to the practice, the longterm benefits justify and offset these.
Clearly the advantages to the individual of newly learned skills will soon transfer to the practice environment. While existing patients may well have chosen your practice for reasons of trust, location and familiarity, the relationship may come under some scrutiny when they are referred elsewhere for additional care such as implantology. The professional and commercial advantages to your service delivery portfolio are likely to improve if the client base recognises that ‘their’ treatment base is seen as a centre for advanced care.
What course is right for you?
The first thing to consider is whether you want to place implants or just restore them. The easiest way to start is restoring implants accurately placed by an experienced implant dentist. Following treatment plans designed by experienced colleagues is initially reassuring, but for your practice and continuity of care how much better would it be to know why and how things were being done?
For this you will need an understanding of the diagnostic and treatment planning process as well as a working knowledge of surgical procedures. The dentist to whom you refer may be able to help you with the first few cases but, ultimately, a well designed course is more likely to leave a longer lasting legacy. There are lots of course options available and it can seem confusing. There are week-long courses for beginners, many of which have a strong practical content.
[quote float=”left”]Educational journeys such as implant courses serve many purposes in the enrichment of a clinician’s professional portfolio[/quote] This is clearly appealing to most busy dentists. Some short courses will offer the chance to place an implant under supervision, but finding patients for such training can prove troublesome. Historically, one or two day courses have been offered but it is unlikely this would provide anything other than a brief overview. Innovative programmes are emerging onto the market where dentists have the opportunity to treat volunteer patients under direct supervision. This type of course addresses many of the frustrations experienced by countless numbers of beginners looking to develop the rhythm of clinical practice, which in so many cases is punctuated by interruptions or lack of clinical experience. The danger is that these courses come to completion with little confidence gained or impetus to go forward. Those providing regular patient experience will soon become the gold standard for the busy general practitioner.
The next major group of courses are timetabled to run over a year. This has the advantage of avoiding taking a large block of time out of one’s busy practice routine. They do allow more time for self-directed learning into many aspects of the subject providing a comprehensive evidence base. The disadvantage, however, is that it takes a year and some find a punctuated approach is less concentrated and prone to allowing for routines and knowledge to be forgotten during the less active periods. There are also online courses such as the ADI Ark or Smiletube.tv. They are very convenient and ideal for self-directed learning but lack practical experience. They would, however, support the enthusiast with access to clinical cases.
Ultimately, the university-based masters courses provide a structured three-year part-time journey
(certificate, diploma and masters levels) which hopefully address all the issues raised in the guiding FGDP documents. These allow for critical appraisal skills which help inform the learning and decision making process, the benefits of such courses are not realised sometimes until faced with a challenging clinical case. Like so many other courses available, the applicants have to make judgements as to whether, on completion of one of these educational events, they will be performing the skills they have learned and as such decisions to enrol should be made on issues such as access to patients, mentor support and educational quality. Many such courses are available such as that delivered by the Institute of Postgraduate Education at UCLAN (University of Central Lancashire), a primary care based institution dedicated to supporting the development of primary care practitioners. Commitment to learning Courses are just the start of a life-long commitment to learning. Clinicians should keep a portfolio of their cases to demonstrate experience, skills and occasional complications, which if reflected upon will inform the educational experience. Joining an association such as the ADI, BSOI or EAO provides an outlet for group discussion and access to update events which inform and challenge.
Ultimately those looking to test their skills and knowledge on a formal front can put themselves through the rigours of the diploma in implant dentistry run through the Faculty of Dental Surgery of Royal College of Edinburgh. A thorough testing of all round skills, this examination and subsequent qualification is the culmination of a journey that is likely to have started years before, on a weekend course in a hotel outside a major town, which tried to provide an answer to your question, ‘why should I bother going on an implant course?’ A whole world of endeavour awaits. Good luck.
The benefits of taking an implant course…
- Any type of course taken will enrich your professional portfolio
- The ability to undertake implantology will improve
- patient trust as they will not have to be referred elsewhere for treatment.
- The practice can be turned into a centre for advanced care by offering implantology, and this may then lead to the dentist undertaking courses in other disciplines too.
- You will be able to add more complex cases to your portfolio
- You will be able to join various associations which will provide access to discussion and events that will continue to stimulate your interest.