A general dentist attends four years of dental school after college and receives training in all areas of dentistry, including fillings, crowns, cleaning teeth, root canals, extracting teeth and much more. At the completion of this training period, a dentist can either go out and open a dental practice or continue on with their education and specialize in any of the above-mentioned areas. For example, an orthodontist is a specialist in braces.
A prosthodontist is a specialist in the restoration and replacement of broken and missing teeth. Their additional training lasts three years. During that time, they are taught in greater detail about both removable and fixed prosthodontics.
Removable Prosthodontics includes replacing missing teeth with appliances that the patients themselves can take in and out of their mouth, such as dentures and partial dentures.
Fixed prosthodontics includes replacing missing and/or broken teeth with restorations that the patient cannot take in and out, such as veneers, dental crowns, bridges and implants.
The most important part of the training is how to restore teeth in a variety of different situations so that the end result is the most esthetic and predictable outcome possible. The types of cases seen in cosmetic dentistry are often more comprehensive and complex in nature. They often involve the combination of crowns and implants or can even be as involved as placing crowns on every tooth in a person's mouth.
To do this, prosthodontists are trained to evaluate all the different aspects of your teeth and mouth. They observe and treat your mouth with regards to:
By evaluating these different areas, the prosthodontist can treat one area of your mouth, but also will determine how other areas will impact the treatment. In essence, a prosthodontist looks at your mouth as a whole, even though there may be only one tooth requiring treatment.
Often times, especially in cases involving multiple and/or missing teeth, the involvement of other specialists and cosmetic dentistry will be needed to help with treatment. These specialists include orthodontists (to straighten or move teeth using braces), periodontists (for gum surgeries and placement of implants), endodontists (root canals) and oral surgeons (for the extraction of teeth and placement of implants). In essence, the prosthodontist acts as the coordinator to help sequence the proper treatment before the final restorations are placed. Often times, treatment can take longer to complete, especially if other specialists are involved. In taking a complete approach, you can be assured that you will end up with the most esthetic and reliable treatment, whether it involves one or all of your teeth.
By Greggory Kinzer, DDS, MSD