General dentistry residents have high implant success rate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.– First-year general dentistry residents at the UF College of Dentistry Jacksonville Clinic have the right stuff when it comes to successfully placing tooth implants. In fact, their success rate of 98 percent exceeds the 90 to 95 percent reported by the American Dental Association as the average survival rate of implants placed by experienced clinicians.

This is the report of a UF study published in the December issue of the Journal of Oral Implantology regarding the ability of general dentistry residents to learn complex implant procedures and successfully place implants in a diverse patient population.

“Really, the success rate of the residents, although much higher than expected, was not the emphasis of the report,” said Clifford Starr, D.M.D., clinical associate professor of community based programs at UF College of Dentistry and director of the colleges Jacksonville dental clinic. “What we wanted to show is that dental residents can place dental implants with success – its something that residents can be taught, its not too difficult to do and general dentists can learn to place implants and succeed with it.”

Dental implants, which look and feel like natural teeth, are the latest hi-tech alternative to dentures and fixed prosthetics like bridges and crowns. Patients are fitted with a metal post implanted directly in the bone to which a prosthetic tooth is affixed. The implant tooth provides its own support and does not rely on adjacent teeth for support or anchorage. Implants are also used to anchor denture plates, giving the patient a better fit and helping to preserve the patients supporting bone.

These advantages have fueled increased patient demand for implants and the placement of dental implants by dentists has tripled since 1986. Although some sources state 65 percent of general dentists offer implant restorations as a routine service of their practices, the ADA reports only 8 percent of general dentists are doing the actual surgical placement of the implants. The majority of surgical implants are placed by specialists in oral surgery and periodontology working in conjunction with general dentists.

Cases of 108 UF patients who received 279 dental implants by residents under the supervision of the Jacksonville clinic faculty between the years 1998 to 2002 were reviewed. Patient gender was roughly 60 percent female and 40 percent male, and the majority of patients fell within the ages of 50 to 59 years. One implant system, SteriOss, was used in 94 percent of the cases, and about 30 percent of the patients required bone grafts to augment the bony ridges of the jaw or to fill-in the space between the implants and the sockets of extracted teeth.

Of the 279 implants placed, only five failed, resulting in an implant success rate of 98 percent over the course of four years.

“Five years would be the gold standard for reporting implant success rates,” said Starr. “Thats not what we reported – our cases ranged from six months to four years because we havent done implants for five years. However, I think the overall summary of our report is that we have quality faculty and residents using good implant systems to complete complex cases with great success.”

“It would be very valuable to the literature if other residency programs doing implant dentistry would publish their results so we can learn from each others experiences,” said Starr. “This would be of great benefit for undergraduate and graduate programs in the process of introducing implant dentistry into their curriculum.”