Postgraduate university-based education in implant dentistry has been a field of rapid development in Europe. The number of postgraduate degree programs dedicated specifically to implant dentistry has rapidly increased in recent years, and such programs are now available in almost every European country.
A recent survey of academic institutions in Europe identified that such programs range from 1 to 3 years in duration, offering from 12 to 180 European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) credits. In the same continent, the most common education pathway in implant dentistry is through a 2-year full-time program, leading to a Master of Science, a Master of Clinical Dentistry, or an equivalent degree in Implant Dentistry.
In the United States, the situation is different. Historically, since the 1980s, the clinical training in implant dentistry has been gradually increasing within the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)-recognized programs. As long ago as 1984, the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID) submitted several applications for specialty recognition to the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA rejected all submitted applications and the specialty status remains largely inconclusive as of today. Over the years, the ADA has set and modified the criteria that must be fulfilled for a discipline to be recognized as a dental specialty, “protecting” the CODA-recognized programs and rejecting any attempt to recognize any new applications.
In the most recent application of AAID to CODA, the committee that reviewed the application stated:
Several other dental disciplines perform the same functions noted in the definition and scope provided in the request.
A description of scientific dental knowledge in the area of implant dentistry was also provided, but did not appear to be substantive and distinct from other education areas already accredited by CODA.
The request did not contain a well-documented historical development and evolution of educational programs in implant dentistry.
The Committee believes this area of knowledge is important and significant to patient care and to other areas of dentistry; however, it does not believe, based upon the requested materials provided, that the area of implant dentistry is distinct from other disciplines currently accredited by CODA.
Without question, with regard to the existing CODA criteria, it will be almost impossible to have a successful application based on their comments above.
Implant dentistry has attained significant growth as an autonomous, multidisciplinary, and cutting-edge discipline in dentistry. As is well known, implant dentistry also combines surgical and prosthodontic knowledge for its clinical application. In the United States, three educational institutions offer full-time, university-based postgraduate advanced education in implant dentistry: Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. At the conclusion of the program, all of them offer a certificate and/or a Master's degree, but there appears to be a great diversity regarding duration of the programs, learning objectives, outcomes assessments, and clinical requirements, as well as targeted skills and competencies.
The importance of implant dentistry has also increased within the established advanced education training programs. There is insufficient indication, however, that the comprehensive aspects of implant dentistry are present in all of the established postgraduate programs where implants are being covered.
In their recent position paper on postgraduate university programs in implant dentistry, Mattheos and colleagues1 outline the following: “It is true that the field of work of a specialist in implant dentistry would overlap with parts of the areas of a periodontist, prosthodontist or oral surgeon, but in reality this is what happens today with everyone practicing implant dentistry, regardless of the level and quality of education they have received. A concern has been often expressed by clinicians that introduction of an ‘implantologist' would automatically imply that this person is better qualified than other practitioners to do implants. Advocates of implant dentistry as a specialty, however, claim that the introduction of specialty recognition in implant dentistry will not aim to replace the established specialties, nor to prevent general practitioners from placing and restoring implants.”
The publication continues with the following statement; “The aim of such a specialty would be to ensure quality of comprehensive practice at the highest level within the discipline. At the core of a specialist, training is not the competence with procedures, but rather the synthetic ability to manage complex patient treatments, identify risks, deal with expected or unexpected complications as well as contribute to the development and progress of the scientific discipline.”
In an effort to give some strategy and direction to the future of graduate education in implant dentistry, AAID will be hosting the first Education Summit in Implant Dentistry. The meeting, the first of its kind, will be the culmination of a series of consultations with national educators in the field of implant dentistry.
The summit will convene the existing program directors of advanced education programs in implant dentistry in the United States and some of the international university-based program directors in implant dentistry. One of the objectives of the summit is the establishment of educational guidelines for advanced education programs in implant dentistry. Those guidelines will ensure the quality of the comprehensive practice in implant dentistry at the highest level.
Additional educational goals of the summit are the establishment of strategies for advanced education programs in implant dentistry, such as the implementation of curricula that demonstrates the ability to manage complex patient treatments, identify potential risks, and the administration of treatment complications in implant dentistry. The summit will also make the recommendations for the implementation of research within the graduate programs that can bring significant contributions to the development and progress of this scientific discipline.
Participation at the summit is also extended to educators of existing implant dentistry programs such as Fellowships, Preceptorships, and Internships in the United States.
Specific inquiries and invitations will be made to academic institutions, nationally and internationally, interested in establishing or creating advanced education programs in implant dentistry.
The summit will take place during the AAID annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, November 2020. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.