What is a Prosthodontist?
The answer? Not a lot of people know. Probably not even you—which explains why you're here. And that's okay. Most people go their whole lives without coming in contact with a Prosthodontist. Even amongst those that do come in contact with them and do have some idea of what they are, eighty percent probably categorize a prosthodontist as "a type of dentist or something."
And, while not technically wrong, the definition only scratches the surface of what a prosthodontist is. Fortunately, by clicking on this article, you've taken the first step to rectifying this grave error. Here you'll learn what a prosthodontist is and why they're more than "just a type of dentist."
An Overview of Prosthodontics
Prosthodontics is a branch of dental care specializing in restoring or replacing missing teeth using various methods and tools. In the same way, a prosthodontist is a dentist that specializes in the restoration or replacement of missing teeth. They also use tools like bridges, dentures, and prostheses to deal with other mouth or jaw structures. Prosthodontists must have at least four years of dental school; after which they spend an additional three years in a school certified by the American Dental Association (ADA).
What Does a Prosthodontist Do?
The functions of a prosthodontist vary from tooth restoration to the installation of dentures and dental implants. But as a rule of thumb, prosthodontists are concerned with things that fall under the main subspecialties of prosthodontics:
- Fixed Prosthodontics
- Removable Prosthodontics
- Maxillofacial Prosthodontics
- Implant Prosthodontics
This is a subspecialty of Prosthodontistry that handles teeth restoration using tools like crowns, bridges, inlays, and veneers. All of this is done using an impression of the mouth made by a prosthodontist in a dental laboratory.
In Fixed Prosthodontics, the impression of the mouth taken by the prosthodontists is sent to a dental technician who fabricates a detailed restoration based on the prescription sent. And then, it is fitted into the mouth using various materials like:
1. Crown: This cap covers a certain tooth part. Based on your prescription, it can also go over the complete tooth. The crown can be made of different materials depending on a variety of factors: like the function or aesthetics of the restoration, the condition of the tooth, or the patient's preference—all of which are included in the Prosthodontist's prescription.
2. Bridge: This is often used to fill the gap left by a missing tooth or set of teeth. The restoration is hung using the remaining tooth or teeth around the gap. This design is also based on the same factors as in the case of the crown—all of which are included in the patient's prescription.
This aspect of Prosthodontics deals with dentures—devices used to replace teeth and soft mouth tissue. Dentures are removable materials made of either metal or plastic or a combination of both (i.e., acrylic). Dentures could either be complete or partial.
Complete dentures are used when the patient has no more remaining natural teeth and works to replace all of the missing teeth. In the same way, partial dentures replace only a set of missing teeth. With partial dentures, there can be Upper Dentures or Lower Dentures where the upper dentures replace a set of upper teeth or the entire upper teeth, and lower dentures replace a set of or the complete lower teeth.
This is a subspecialty of prosthodontics that deals with restoring the face, mouth, or jaw tissue of people born with acquired and congenital head defects. A maxillofacial prosthodontist coordinates with other health professionals like oral surgeons, oncologists, plastic surgeons, and more to perform complex treatments involving prostheses like Speech Bulbs, Obturators, Palatal Lifts, and other augmentation devices.
Implant Prosthodontics deals with the use of dental implants for the restoration of your missing teeth. Dental Implants are designed as a foundation on which tooth restorations rest. They are screw-shaped artificial devices that help provide a structure for dentures, bridges, and other maxillofacial prostheses.
Why Go to a Prosthodontist?
1. They have better training than either general dentists or dental specialists like cosmetic dentists. Plus, prosthodontists are more suited to help restore your facial structure and greatly improve the look and function of your smile.
2. Prosthodontists aren't just specialists at replacing teeth; they are also great at improving the look and condition of teeth and restoring them to pristine conditions through treatments like tooth whitening, veneers, and Invisalign.
3. Prosthodontists can help realign your teeth, improving your bite. If you have misaligned teeth, this can greatly affect your gums, neck, head, and jaw joints, causing tooth pain, jaw and muscle pain, and possibly tooth loss. A prosthodontist can help correct this using one of several non-surgical methods that help preserve dental health.
Difference Between a Prosthodontist and Other Dental Specialists
Some people often confuse prosthodontists for dentists or other dental specialists. This doesn't seem right. Prosthodontists majorly deal with the replacement of teeth for health or cosmetic purposes. The replacement can vary from just a single tooth or a set of teeth to the entire teeth, including the gums.
Prosthodontics training is generally more advanced than other branches of dentistry, focusing on teeth restoration. Some other dental specialists can perform some prosthodontic treatments, but generally, prosthodontists are regarded as the leading professionals in these treatments—and overall in the dental treatment plan.