Getting started in implant dentistry

March 21, 2011
With implants being such a widely accepted treatment option, implant auxiliaries must be comfortable with answering patients’ questions. Vicki Garza, RDA, ITC, shares three things with colleagues that have helped her on the road to learning to assist with implant treatment.

By Vicki L. Garza, RDA, ITC

Recently I attended an awesome continuing-education course, The Dental Team Implant Certification Program at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas, presented by the ADIA. I have attended this class at least twice. I always leave with the feeling of being refueled and having new pearls to share with my dental team and our patients. Technology and science are always changing to make implant treatment better and more streamlined, so continuing education can make understanding updates and explaining them to patients a breeze. Not to mention it makes us implant auxiliaries seem really on top of things, because who does the patient call with questions about implant treatment? Us!

While I was at this class, I noticed that there were a lot of general dental offices there. I work with an oral surgery practice group. We believe in keeping a public relations person on our team because we are a specialty practice. After we perform surgery on a patient and all of the postop appointments are good, then our relationship is basically done. We are constantly seeking ways to keep our referring doctors in contact with us. I realized as I listened to the questions — from how to set up an operatory for surgery to how many times to use drills from a implant kit — that one of the most important aspects of PR our office can provide is education.

As a veteran implant assistant, I realized I could help new dental assistants with some of their concerns about implant surgeries, how to determine when a twist drill is used up, and many other aspects of this type of procedure. Implant procedures can get very detailed and complex, but with the right coaching and assistance, they can be easily understood. And before you know it, you’re on your way to understanding even advanced implant procedures and consulting patients with full confidence. I’d like to share a few things that have helped me along my path in this field.

First, DO NOT LET IMPLANT PROCEDURES SCARE YOU!!! Think about it — if your doctor is learning or gaining more education in this area of dentistry, then you need to also. This can be exciting. Implants are a proven science and a widely accepted treatment option. We have to offer this type of procedure to our patients.

Seek continuing education in implant treatment. Ask your doctor what implant group he or she is with and ask if you can attend. ICOI and ADIA were my sources of education, from communicating with patients about implant treatment to educating dental peers. Get plugged into a network of people who can help educate you as well as provide quality resources to help you in your journey on the road to assisting with implant treatment.

When purchasing an implant system, don’t be afraid to ask the equipment representative questions. How many times do we change the twist drills? Is it after each use or each autoclave? Does the company provide an implant twist drill checklist on usage? How available is tech support? Does the company have an exchange policy? And if so, what is the time frame for this service? Will corporate support be available for your first few procedures? Ask your rep for surgical and restorative manuals. Ask him or her to have a lunch-n-learn with your team members on how to place implants and restore them. Review how to answer questions about implant treatments. Just remember — you are not alone in this high-tech dental world. Your implant rep can help you tremendously; just be sure to ask.

I give all of my fellow dental assistants a round of applause since March is Dental Assistant Appreciation Month.

Author bio
Vicki Garza has spent the last 23 years as a dental assistant in various practices in the Austin, Texas, area. Among her current tasks are working with an oral surgeon in conjunction with a local trauma center and serving as a lead surgical assistant and implant treatment coordinator. She is a fellow of the ADIA and frequent contributor to this column. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].