In the 1950s, the local medical doctor coordinated most of your care, curing your rash, removing your tonsils, and maybe even delivering you or your parents. In the same way that general medicine evolved over the decades into more distinct specialized medicine, traditional dentistry now includes a network of specialists applying their specific skillsets to ensure optimum patient outcomes.
In this ideal situation, a patient will see the general practitioner for routine maintenance, caries elimination, and, often, cosmetic and restorative procedures, while the specialists manage the bulk of the orthodontic straightening and gum and implant treatments.
But more and more, we’re seeing one-size-fits-all dental practices where the general practitioner advertises inexpensive implants or gum treatments that would be better left in the hands of the specialist. Would you have your internist complete a knee replacement? Of course not. This concept is the same in dentistry.
Optimum Patient Outcome
As periodontists, my colleague and I partner regularly with more than 50 restorative dentists who rely on us to co-diagnose and treat complicated cases these general practitioners may rarely see, let alone treat. Our narrower scope of treatments provides a level of expertise that should be of comfort not just to the patient but also to the referring dentists who know they are placing their patients in capable hands.
The specialist’s objective should always be the same as the generalist’s—to ensure the patient receives comprehensive, longest-lasting results for a highly functional and aesthetic procedure. With the team model, the treatment options are designed from the best evidence-based techniques, not the “cookie-cutter” or one-size-fits-all treatments that are driven by market trends. The members of the team then can execute what they have been trained to do, which leads to better treatment outcomes.
Our combined goal is to educate patients so they understand that the team approach is ultimately in their best interest for long-term success. Once the team has been established, we are all in constant communication—and that “all” must always include the patients, who then feel confident they are receiving the best of our combined experience, especially for complex cases.
The Interdisciplinary Approach
Our relationships with other specialists and general practitioners are highly reciprocal. For instance, we see many new patients who have not seen a general practitioner for comprehensive care. After eliminating the failing teeth and periodontal disease from their mouths, we will refer them with healthy gums and bone to one of our dental partners, since general maintenance and caries treatment are not our areas of focus.
From here, the team can develop a treatment plan that serves the patient in the most predictable way. The generalist who is reluctant to refer patients to the periodontist/implant surgeon usually ends up compromising the patient’s overall dental health and quality of life. Comprehensive care always requires a team approach and should not be completed by one clinician with the illusion that it will cost less or be easier to complete.
More than any other type of dentistry, implant dentistry requires the correct plan and treatment the first time. Approximately 25% of our patients are people who have been treated by these “jack of all trades” practices with unsatisfied outcomes. It is pretty obvious that there is nothing more expensive and time-consuming than doing something twice.
An interdisciplinary approach to implant dentistry becomes even more important in difficult cases where there’s a higher-than-normal risk of negative outcome, as in the critical aesthetic zone. It’s here where there is little margin for error and precise planning and execution really matter. As a team, we make sure that the plan and outcome are measured and explained very clearly to the patient. We team together with the patient and ensure scheduling is as seamless as possible at both the restorative and periodontist (implant) offices.
Thousands of satisfied patients seen in this fashion prove that the interdisciplinary planning results in the most successful patient experience. A comprehensive multidisciplinary approach lets your patient benefit from the best of both worlds—two or more specialists applying their experienced, expert techniques for optimal patient safety, treatment, and overall outcome.
Dr. Fava and his partner, Robert A. Levine, DDS, are board-certified periodontists in Philadelphia, where they provide All-on-4 dental implants; SameDay Smile or Smile Zone dental implants; implant, crown, and bridge implant restoration; LANAP laser treatment of periodontal disease; reconstructive dental surgery; and Pinhole certified gum rejuvenation. Fava completed his specialty residency in periodontics and master’s degree in dental science at the University of Connecticut, and he earned his DMD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. He can be reached at padentalimplants.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or (215) 677-8686.