What is a Prosthodontist?
There are nine dental specialities recognized by the American Dental Association:
- Public Health
- Oral Pathology
- Endodontics (root canal)
- Periodontics (gum disease)
- Oral Surgery
All of these specialties require years of training beyond the basic four years of dental school that general dentistry requires. Many patients may not be aware that “cosmetic dentistry” is not a specialty. General dentists may attend weekend long, or sometimes weeks long, continuing education courses to learn more about cosmetic dentistry or prosthodontic work, but a prosthodontist spends THREE YEARS in graduate school to become an oral prosthetic specialist.
Why choose a prosthodontist?
A prosthodontist is trained to handle complex cases that are beyond many general dentists’ skill or comfort level to rehabilitate. In many cases, the prothodontist leads a team of the patient’s doctors to develop solutions to that individual’s special dental needs. Care is frequently coordinated between a patient’s general dentist, medical doctor, oral surgeon, periodontist, and orthodontist to achieve a beautiful and functional smile for the patient.
Prosthodontists spend countless hours in the laboratory and the clinic seeing patients to learn the complexities of oral rehabilitation. The graduate program includes classroom lectures, literature review, seminars and many hours of hands on experience to gain expertise in all three types of oral prosthetics: fixed, removable, and maxillofacial. We are all familiar with medical prosthetics, like artificial limbs. Prosthodontics involves any type of prosthesis specifically for the mouth.
Fixed prosthetics stay permanently in the mouth and include porcelain veneers, onlays, crowns and bridges, implants, and implant retained dentures (dentures that screw onto implants and are therefore very stable and secure but must be removed by the dentist). Removable prosthetics include full dentures and partial dentures, and dentures that snap onto implants for extra stability, all of which are removed daily by the patient.
Maxillofacial prosthetics restore a mouth that has been compromised by birth defects (like cleft palate), traumatic injury (car accident), or cancer surgery. The prosthesis replaces not just teeth, but also supporting structures that are missing or had to be removed. These types of prosthetics greatly improve the patients' quality of life.