Prosthodontics is a branch within dentistry that deal with the restoration or replacement of damaged or missing teeth. A prosthodontist, as you may expect, is defined as a dentist specializing in this field. Specific examples of their work includes:
Cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry therefore takes up the majority of this specialist’s work.
Prosthodontist compared to a general dentist
The services provided by both these do overlap. Nonetheless, we will attempt to provide a definition of just what exactly a prosthodontist is by comparing the two.
General dentists typically perform a variety of dental services in a day. They are concerned with the overall oral health of their patients. This means they do everything from emergency exams to root canals, from simple fillings to crown and bridge work. They may do some extractions and surgeries, but they also do preventive exams and cleanings. You could say they are the first line of defense for all things dental. Prosthodontic work will take up a large percentage of a generalists workload.
A prosthodontist, on the other hand, is more focused or specialized. Their practice is limited to restorations only. This means they only do procedures such as inlays, onlays, crowns, implant crowns, bridges, and veneers as well as partial and full dentures. A prosthodontist typically does not do, say root canals or cleanings. Nor would they treat dental emergencies, unless they are related a patient currently undergoing treatment in their office.
There are two ways to restore or replace teeth: via fixed (i.e. non-removable restorations such as crowns, bridges or implants) or removable restorations (i.e. dentures).
What schooling is required to become a prosthodontist?
In order to become a prosthodontist you must first go to dental school. You would then be required to attend 3 more years of post-doctorate education. In addition, most of these specialists receive additional time learning about dental lab work (where dental restorations are fabricated) or perhaps even doing it themselves.
Suffice it to say, they have a broad knowledge about every aspect of restoring damaged or missing teeth, and how to get them to function properly in your mouth – even under complex or difficult circumstances. Due to their extra training and expertise they will command higher fees and thus generally earn a high salary.
Prosthodontists are also under the same legal requirement as all dentists when it comes to completing a specific number of continuing education hours every 2 years.
Who might need a prosthodontist’s services?
Prosthodontists typically don’t advertise a lot in order to get new patients from the general population. Rather, as a specialist they rely on general dentists to refer patients to them who are in need of complicated or complex procedures, much like an oral surgeon or a periodontist.
If your dentist refers you to a prosthodontist it is because they feel strongly that your particular circumstances deserve an opinion even more expert than their own. This is a good thing. It is always reassuring to have a general dentist who is not afraid to enlist the aid of a specialist when needed.
Examples of when you may need to see a specialist for prosthodontic treatment:
- Multiple crowns and/or bridgework
- Full mouth reconstruction- where every tooth needs restored – e.g. due to a severe ‘bite’ problem
- Complex cases, where multi-disciplinary specialist care is required – e.g due to periodontal disease, or endodontics also being required
A high degree of skill (acquired through specialist training and experience) is required for many of these complex cases. Speak to your dentist about the services provided by these specialists. If you need a referral, s/he will explain to you what you can expect when you attend the prosthodontist. They are experts in their field and typically work in harmony with the general dentist to achieve optimal results for the patient.
For more information on various specialist dentists? Click these links: