Loss of natural teeth and oral structures can be a traumatizing experience, whether it’s due to natural aging, a congenital defect or a serious accident. In some instances, a person may lose the ability to smile or chew. Other times, the issue can be so extreme, a person may feel uncomfortable going out in public without feeling embarrassed by the way they look. Through prosthodontics, dentists are able to restore oral function and esthetics, so patients can start living normal lives that are free from pain, limitations and shame.
What is a Prosthodontist?
Prosthodontics is a branch of dentistry focused on the design, development and fitting of artificial replacements for teeth and other portions of the mouth. Through prosthodontics, a dentist seeks to preserve or restore dental function, health, appearance and function through proper diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance.
A prosthodontist provides treatment to patients with clinical conditions associated with deficient or missing teeth and/or maxillofacial tissues. In addition to completing dental school, a prosthodontist will have received an extra three years of advanced training at an ADA-accredited prosthodontic graduate program. This training will have provided the specialist with the ability to treat complex dental and facial problems involving missing or defective teeth and jaw structures. Ideally, a prosthodontist should be highly trained in bridges, crowns, dental implants, temporomandibular disorders and cosmetics.
While many dentists can provide some replacement procedures, prosthodontists are recognized as the premier experts in the field. In many cases, they will lead teams of specialists, general dentists, and other non-dental health professionals to create personalized solutions for a patient’s dental needs.
Who Needs a Prosthodontist?
Anyone with extensive, complex or atypical oral or dental restorative needs should consult with a prosthodontist before proceeding with any treatment. While some young patients may need to see a specialist for congenital issues, most are middle-age adults with years of accumulated wear and tear. Some common issues include:
- Cosmetic dentistry
- Dental implantation
- Complete and removable partial dentures
- Complex care management that involves several specialists
- Replacing missing teeth
- Geriatric patients with special needs
- Snoring and sleep disorders
- Children born with missing teeth or cleft palates
- Patients suffering from temporomandibular joint syndrome/disorder (TMD)
- Traumatic facial injuries that affect the mouth or jaw
- Maxillofacial prosthetic procedures related to oral cancer reconstruction
While complex problems are typically associated with prosthodontics, anyone with missing teeth – whether it’s one or several – should consider visiting with a prosthodontist to learn about all available restoration options.
Why Should I Choose a Prosthodontist?
In addition to advanced training, prosthodontists utilize advanced technology that increases efficiency and accuracy. Most prosthodontists are also extensively trained in contemporary, state-of-the-art procedures and techniques that allow them to successfully treat the most complex dental conditions to restore optimal esthetics as well as function. Because they specialize in replacements and restoration, prosthodontists have a special understanding of the intricate dynamics that work in concert to support a healthy, functional mouth.
How Can I Find a Local Prosthodontist?
The American Dental Association offers a convenient search function that allows patients to easily find local dentists who have completed an ADA-accredited advanced education program in prosthodontics. These specialists will have received laboratory and clinical training in surgical implant placement, veneers, bridges, crowns, esthetics/cosmetics, inlays, dental implants, removable complete and partial dentures, TMD-jaw joint problems, birth or congenital anomalies, traumatic injuries to oral structures, along with sleep disorders and oral cancer prosthetic reconstruction.
In addition to having successfully completed a rigorous examination by the American Board of Prosthodontics, board certified prosthodontists must re-certify every eight years. These stringent standards ensure that the specialist is current on modern techniques and practices that impact the field. Patients can check to see if a specialist is certified by viewing the The American Board of Prosthodontics’ list of Board Certified Prosthodontists.