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Prosthodontics

Authored by
Reviewed by Michael Cortese, DMD
 

Prosthodontics, also known as prosthetic dentistry or dental prosthetics, is one of the nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA). Prosthodontists specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and care of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth. They also perform higher levels of artistic implantology and full-mouth reconstruction.

Prosthodontists are highly trained individuals who must complete an additional two to three years in an ADA-accredited prosthodontic program after completing their four years of dental school. In all, prosthodontists spend up to twelve years after high school training to become licensed prosthodontists. To maintain certification, prosthodontists must retake written and oral examinations every eight years.

Prosthodontic Treatment

Prosthodontists provide different levels of care and work closely with patients to develop comprehensive long-term and short-term treatment plans. The nature of the problem the patient is experiencing and the severity of the patient’s condition will determine what steps are necessary to accomplish the desired result. The following is a list of the various treatment procedures prosthodontists may utilize:

Esthetic Reconstructive Dentistry: Edentulous (toothless) patients who need the highest level of implantological treatment usually receive esthetic reconstructive dentistry. This is the most advanced approach to providing full or partial dental implants while maximizing the connection between the implant and living bone.

Veneers: Veneers are usually associated with cosmetic dentistry, since a new tooth is bonded onto an old one. A patient with chips, cracks, tooth discoloration, or uneven teeth may see a prosthodontist to have veneers applied in order to correct these issues.

Removable Dentures: These can be either partial or complete dentures, and they are for people who have lost their teeth due to poor oral hygiene, trauma, or age. Removable dentures help patients to chew their food normally and give them a more attractive smile. They are sometimes chosen over fixed dentures because they are easily removable and replaceable.

Fixed Dentures: Many people who need partial dentures elect to have fixed dentures, also known as dental bridges. Patients must qualify by having enough supporting tissues (healthy teeth and gums) for the fixed dentures to attach to. In most cases, dental bridges are used as replacements for removable partial dentures. It is not possible to have a complete set of fixed dentures.

Dental Crowns: Dental crowns are prosthetic teeth that resemble natural teeth, and they can be made of ceramic, metal, or a combination of both. Broken, chipped, cracked, or damaged teeth are generally good candidates for crowns.

Night Guards: Custom-made night guards can protect teeth and relieve pressure on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). People who grind their teeth exert force that may be harmful to the TMJ and teeth.

Prosthodontists also help patients who have mouth defects, such as teeth that have never developed. Prosthodontists can determine the best ways to replace missing teeth and restore teeth to their proper function and appearance. In some cases, if cost is a major factor, a patient may want to consult with a prosthodontist for an expert opinion but have the work done elsewhere. It is important to remember, however, that general dentists are trained only in single-tooth replacements. If your case involves more than one tooth, you need a prosthodontist. They are the only dentists trained in multiple tooth replacement.

Am I a Candidate for a Prosthodontist?

Here are a few questions that may help you decide if you need to see a prosthodontist:

  • Do you have missing or undeveloped teeth?
  • Do you feel you could benefit from a specialist’s expert opinion?
  • Has your general dentist suggested you seek a prosthodontist?
  • Have other people (not necessarily dental professionals) recommended a prosthodontist to you?
  • Is there a prosthodontist in your area?
  • Are you interested in dental implants?
  • Do you already wear partial or complete dentures?
  • Do you want to improve your smile?

It is important to remember that dentists compete for your business, and if cost is a factor for you, you may want to shop around. Your general or cosmetic dentist can perform many of the procedures described above, but prosthodontists have more expertise in the field of prosthetic dentistry. Prosthetic dentistry can be costly, depending on the dentist, the procedure, the type of materials used, and the length of the treatment plan. For example, ceramic dental veneers can cost up to $3,500 per tooth. It’s also important to note that not all cosmetic dental procedures are covered under most dental insurance plans. Most insurance plans will cover cosmetic dentistry only in extreme or severe situations that call for immediate dental care, such as being in a car accident. Many people elect to pay for prosthodontic procedures out-of-pocket because of the improved self-esteem and confidence a beautiful smile can provide.

Learn more about Dental Insurance.

Page updated September 2012

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