What Is a Prosthodontist?

At Kopp Dental, we take pride in guaranteeing our Elmhurst patients the finest in state-of-the-art prosthodontics. But this promise may not mean quite as much to you as it does to us if you don’t have the specialized technical knowledge to understand exactly what prosthodontics is. Which is to say, we often hear questions like the following:

  • What does prosthodontics mean?
  • What does a prosthodontist specialize in?
  • What procedures does a prosthodontist do?

Here are the answers to these and related questions.

What Does a Prosthodontist Do?

The Prosthodontist: What Does Prosthodontics Mean?

Prosthodontics is one of the nine dental specialties within the field of dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association. It involves the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation, and maintenance of the oral functioning, health, comfort, and appearance of patients with damaged or missing teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues.

What Does a Prosthodontist Specialize In?

“Prostho” means replacement and “dontist” means involving the teeth. Prosthodontics provides the prosthodontist with the special training and experience necessary to restore and replace teeth. This unique expertise can be crucial to giving patients a healthy, functional, pain-free mouth and an appealing smile. Depending on the case, a prosthodontist can replace or restore a single tooth, multiple teeth, and damaged gum and jaw tissue as well.

How Does a Person Become a Prosthodontist?

A prosthodontist must first complete the standard four years of dental school and receive his or her Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. He or she then goes on for three more years of specialized training in an ADA-accredited prosthodontics program. The training focuses on crowns, dentures, dental implants, cosmetics, bridges, temporomandibular disorders (TMJ/TMD), and more.

How Does a Prosthodontist Become a Board Certified Prosthodontist?

After completing his or her training, a prosthodontist can undertake the rigorous and time-consuming process to acquire Board Certification from the American Board of Prosthodontics. The process requires both passing an exam and making a case presentation. Upon its successful completion, the prosthodontist received Board Certification in the form of a Diplomate of the American Board of Prosthodontics.

Prosthodontists are subject to recertification every eight years to ensure they remain current with all the recent developments in their field.

What Procedures Does a Prosthodontist Do?

Because every prosthodontist is fully trained and certified in general dentistry, at Kopp Dental, we can provide the full range of services available at any dental office. We can take care of cleanings, checkups, filling cavities, etc.

But thanks to his or her specialized training, experience, and equipment, a prosthodontist is also uniquely qualified to attend to replacing lost teeth. As a result, general dentists commonly refer patients to prosthodontists when the patients have this sort of problem.

Prosthodontists also have the skills necessary to address sleep apnea, snoring disorders, and cleft palates.

The Prosthodontist: Replacing Lost Teeth

Some people lose teeth from a traumatic event. For others, it’s more or less a part of the natural aging process. Either way, the results can be painful and upsetting. The damage to your personal appearance can ruin your looks and your self-confidence with them. You can even have trouble talking and eating. The prosthodontist can restore your healthy, functional, pain-free smile by one of the following methods:

  • The prosthodontist has the knowhow and special equipment necessary to install crowns, bridges, snap on dentures, veneers, All on 4 teeth, and lifelike temporaries. In the course of providing them, he or she can address problems like difficult color matching, severely worn teeth, complicated bite issues, and TMD.
  • The prosthodontist may also recommend dental implants to correct damaged or missing teeth. In recent years, dental implants have become ever more natural looking and affordable while the outcomes of the procedure have been steadily more predictable and beneficial.

What Are These Special Tools the Prosthodontist Uses?

  • Crowns, or caps as they are sometimes called, replace the entire surface of a tooth above the gum line. Made of ceramic, metal, or a combination of the two, they’re cemented onto a tooth that still has intact roots. They’re often used to repair fractured, broken, or misaligned teeth or after a root canal.
  • Fixed bridges use the remaining healthy teeth as “abutment teeth.” That means they’re employed to serve as the anchors on either side of a gap that support one or more artificial teeth. If there are more than one, they’re typically linked into a single appliance. Bridges often work well but require special cleaning and can conceivably compromise the abutment teeth.
  • Dentures come in a number of varieties including full, partial, and implant-supported. When manufactured to a high standard, they work well for many individuals. They do require some getting used to, though, and not everyone finds them comfortable.
  • Veneers are porcelain shells that cover the front surface of a tooth to improve its appearance. They can change the shape, size, and color of teeth and even fill small gaps. The prosthodontist removes a small amount of enamel before gluing them on so the tooth doesn’t end up looking too bulky.
  • Dental implants replace an entire tooth, both the crown and the root. First, a small titanium post is implanted in the jaw. When the post fuses with the jawbone, it can provide a firm anchor for a crown. Implants are used to support single or multiple teeth or even other forms of restorations like bridges and dentures. It’s often the case that another specialist performs the initial surgery, and a prosthodontist designs and installs the implant crown. As a general rule, implants are initially more expensive than other forms of treatment but provide excellent results and value in the long run. Frequently, they last a lifetime.

Whatever the specific method employed, and whether a single tooth or many need to be replaced, Kopp Dental is set up to make the entire process as easy and stress-free as possible. We handle every step of the process from opening consultation through collecting appropriate information, diagnosis, treatment planning, working closely with the dental laboratory to ensure that prosthetics and appliances fit properly, superior treatment, and thorough follow-up care. If the patient has received certain interventions, for example, a bridge, the follow-up care can include providing special care instructions.

Sometimes the effects of damaged or missing teeth isn’t quite as devastating, but it’s natural and understandable if you still want to repair the damage. Studies have shown repeatedly that a less-than-imperfect smile can have a negative effect on a person’s self-esteem. The prosthodontist can help in these less severe cases as well. He or she can provide one of the following treatments:

  • Placing crowns/caps on teeth to improve their appearance and strength.
  • Placing veneers on the surfaces of teeth to hide imperfections and improve their appearance.
  • Using advanced bonding technology to change the shape of teeth and fill in gaps.
  • Bleaching and whitening teeth to improve their appearance when they’re discolored.
  • Providing lifelike dentures.
  • Providing dental implants to replace missing teeth.
  • Providing conventional dentures as well as All on 4 implant-supported dentures.

As mentioned above, the prosthodontist is especially qualified to help with certain other problems as well, for example, the pain that results from TMJ when the jaw joints become inflamed. The prosthodontist may recommend a bite guard (sometimes called a stabilizing splint) to relieve the pressure on the joints and thus the pain. He or she may also prescribe pain medication or recommend a physical therapy regimen.

How Can You Find a Prosthodontist in Your Area?

The ACP’s Find a Prosthodontistsearch can guide you to a prosthodontist near you. You can use the ABP’s Find ABP Certified Prosthodontistsearch to check if that practitioner is Board Certified.

When You Need a Prosthodontist

If you need reconstructive or cosmetic dental work, we encourage you to contact a prosthodontist in your area.  As specialists recognized and regulated by the American Dental Association, prosthodontists are the experts who can provide state-of-the-art cosmetic dentistry procedures and rejuvenating techniques. Their rigorous training, extensive experience, and unique understanding of complex dental care guarantee their ability to help you preserve your natural teeth and maintain a healthy mouth. If you’re in the Elmhurst are, contact the Board Certified prosthodontists at Kopp Dental to recover a smile you can be proud of.