Do you sometimes face a dilemma: to refer or not to refer? Is your patient missing either a single tooth, multiple teeth or perhaps all their teeth and you feel some hesitancy about advising them to see an implant dentist?
With almost 3 million tooth extractions performed on adults in 2018-19 on the NHS and almost three-quarters of brits (74%) without their full set of natural teeth, and 6% with none left at all – based on these shocking statistics, why are we not seeing more implant referrals?
In recent years I’ve become accustomed to the fact that GDPs can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the complexity of the discipline and can be averse to referring patients to other clinicians for more specific care. This could be owing to the fear of losing the patient, lack of confidence in talking about implants with patients (or the dentist) and in some cases, concerns of work being critiqued by fellow clinicians/peers.
Refer for growth
It’s imperative to your role as a dental professional, to educate and offer patients a wide range of treatment options. With more patients doing their research online, they are well clued up on treatment options and armed with knowledge from the internet, media and word of mouth, with an expectation that as a dentist you are capable of meeting their implant needs. When a patient steps into your practice, with some or all of their teeth missing and are looking for a solution to fill the gap, not being able to meet their needs can represent a barrier to growth.
When discussing the options of a denture, bridge or implant, it’s essential these are documented in the patients’ clinical notes to show they have been discussed. When a patient is seriously considering dental implants, but you’re not competent to provide the treatment, then your best decision would be to refer to an implant dentist who has been clinically trained in providing the surgical and restorative aspect of dental implant treatment.
The referral process should be viewed as a means of expanding your own professional expertise and services to enable you to offer more inclusive care to patients. Referral services today are highly professional and ethical, and when you combine this with advances in ‘instant messaging’ and communication technology, (email, text messaging, scans, etc.), the lines of communication between both dental professionals have never been more transparent.
When to refer?
One barrier to referring for implants is often knowing when to refer. When considering making a referral for an implant consultation, GDPs should consider the following: