What is a Prosthodontist? - What They Do & How They Can Help

What is a Prosthodontist? - What They Do & How They Can Help
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Table of Contents

  1. What Is a Prosthodontist?
  2. What Are Their Qualifications?
  3. Treatments Offered
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
  5. References

If your teeth are in need of major repairs, you may want to consider seeing a prosthodontist instead of a general dentist. Prosthodontists specialize in repairing and enhancing teeth with prosthetics (synthetic items like crowns, bridges, and dentures).

They can help you improve the look of your smile, restore the function of damaged teeth or replace missing teeth with a variety of artificial replacements. They can also help screen for and treat a range of health problems, including sleep apnea, temporomandibular joint disorder and more.

What Is a Prosthodontist?

Prosthodontists are specialist dentists trained in the use of prosthetics like crowns, veneers, dentures and more.

If a procedure involves adding synthetic materials to a tooth, a prosthodontist can probably help you with it. The only exception is dental fillings, which are almost always handled exclusively by general dentists.

Patients typically see a prosthodontist after being referred to one by their general dentist. However, you can also seek help from a prosthodontist on your own if you think you would benefit from their services. Most cities will have several practicing prosthodontists serving their local community. People who live in rural areas might have a harder time finding one.

What Are Their Qualifications?

Prosthodontics is a dental specialty (a sub-field of dentistry with its own specialized training requirements). Any practicing prosthodontist must have:

  • A valid dentistry degree and license
  • At least 34 months of additional training in prosthodontics

If they also work with maxillofacial prostheses (prosthetics to reshape the jawbone and facial structure), they are required to have completed a minimum of 11 additional months of training on top of that. 

You can check whether any prosthodontist holds a valid license by using their state’s licensing search tool. Health Guide USA maintains a full list of search tools you can consult at any time. If a prosthodontist does not appear on the lists generated by these tools, they may not possess a valid license to practice dentistry at this time.

Prosthodontic Treatment Options

A prosthodontist can restore, replace, or enhance your teeth by using a number of techniques. Most of their work falls into one of the three categories described here.

Restorative Dentistry

From decay to tooth wear to dental injury, your teeth go through a lot in your lifetime. A prosthodontist can restore your damaged teeth to their original condition using crowns, veneers, or dental bonding.

They can also cover any gaps where you are missing one or more teeth with dental bridges or implants. Prosthodontists can even replace your entire set of teeth with a custom set of fixed or removable dentures that look just like real teeth, allowing you to chew and speak properly and smile with confidence.

Aesthetic Dentistry

Teeth are not just for chewing food – they also impact your appearance and self-esteem. A prosthodontist can help you achieve your dream smile with tooth veneers, bonding, high-quality porcelain dental crowns, and other cosmetic enhancements. Some prosthodontists also perform teeth whitening procedures to brighten your smile. 

Treatment for Complex Dental Problems

Traumas such as vehicle accidents and radiation damage from cancer treatment can leave some people with extensive dental damage. Other people are born with dental problems like cleft palates, issues that cause aesthetic and functional issues.

If you are affected by complex dental and facial problems, a prosthodontist can restore your teeth and correct any deformities in your face and jaw. This may improve your appearance as well as your ability to eat and speak without difficulty.

Dental Screenings

Prosthodontists are also responsible for conducting screenings for a variety of oral and general health problems, including: 

  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Oral cancer (cancer of the mouth, lips, tongue, or throat)

Screenings given by prosthodontists are not the same as proper diagnostic exams. A prosthodontist usually cannot tell with certainty that you have a particular condition. If their findings indicate that there is cause for concern, they may refer you to another healthcare professional for a more comprehensive evaluation, such as a sleep study or a tissue biopsy.

If the results of those tests are positive, a prosthodontist might participate in the treatment process. For instance, they might come up with a way to treat your TMD with a few strategically placed crowns to balance your bite. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, they might fabricate an oral appliance to help you keep your airways open when you sleep. They will usually work alongside a larger care team when doing this work, including doctors, surgeons, occupational therapists, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is prosthodontics?
Prosthodontics is a type of specialized dentistry that is focused on repairing and replacing natural teeth with synthetic prostheses like dental crowns, bridges, and implants. The goal of this branch of dentistry is to help patients who have lost significant amounts of tooth structure retain their quality of life.
What procedures does a prosthodontist do?

Prosthodontists perform all of the following procedures and more:

  • Crown preparation and placement
  • Implant placement (for single tooth implants or for fixed or removable dentures)
  • Dental bonding
  • Veneer placement
  • Denture fittings and relinings (adjustments to preserve the fit)
  • Treatment for temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ/TMD)
  • Oral health screenings (for cancer, sleep apnea, etc.)
What is the specialty of a prosthodontist?

Prosthodontists specialize in placing dental prosthetics (synthetic items created to replace some or all of a tooth, such as crowns, implants, or dentures). They are the best dental professionals to go to for help if your teeth are in particularly bad shape.

Their restorative work will usually function better, look great, and last longer than similar work done by a general dentist. They also treat specific health conditions (such as sleep apnea) using oral prosthetics like night guards.

Is a prosthodontist a doctor?

No. A prosthodontist is a qualified dentist who has received additional training in prosthodontics (the use of dental prosthetics). They can do everything a general dentist can do as well as specialized restorative procedures.

However, most prosthodontists focus exclusively on their specialty and leave their patients' general dental care to their family dentists. Prosthodontists may also work closely with doctors when providing care for patients with specific health problems, such as sleep apnea sufferers.

References

Prosthodontist vs. Cosmetic Dentist: Explore the Difference. (2021). Penn Dental Medicine. 

Role of Oral Devices in Managing Sleep-disordered Breathing Patients. (June 2016). American College of Prosthodontists. 

What is a Prosthodontist and the Dental Specialty of Prosthodontics? (June 2018). American College of Prosthodontists.

Accreditation Standards for Advanced Dental Education Programs in Prosthodontics. (August 2016). Commission on Dental Accreditation. 

Types of Procedures. (2021). Association of Prosthodontists of Canada. 

Dental License Lookup. (2021). Health Guide USA. 

Fixed prosthodontics00003-5/fulltext). (April 2004). Dental Clinics. 

Prosthodontics. (2021). American Dental Education Association. 

Oral Cancer Screening. (2018). American College of Prosthodontists.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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