Prosthodontics is a dental specialty that focuses on the restoration and replacement of teeth. It is also sometimes referred to as prosthetic dentistry or dental prosthetics. Prosthodontics is one of the nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. The ADA specifies that prosthodontists oversee the "diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, appearance and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues..."
Besides obvious cosmetic implications, missing teeth and oral tissues can have a negative impact on other aspects of our oral and overall health. Some of these include:
- Being able to effectively chew and swallow food
- The ability to articulate certain speech sounds
- Voice quality
- Bite problems (the force of the teeth pushing against each other keeps them in the correct place in the mouth, when a tooth is missing, that “push back” is no longer present and other teeth can drift or move to improper positions)
- Sleep apnea
- Bone loss of the jaw
Several options a prosthodontist might use to replace missing or damaged teeth include:
- Dental Implants
Some of the most common devices planned and created by prosthodontist to replace other missing oral tissues include:
- Maxillary obturators (a device that covers a hole or opening in the roof of the mouth, for example, due to a birth defect or surgery, that aids in feeding, eating, speech, good air flow, etc.)
- Speech aid prosthesis
- Mandibular resection prosthesis (a device that replaces missing tissues from the lower jaw)
A prosthodontists receives three additional years of schooling from an accredited program after completing dental school. This training prepares them to deal with especially complex cases due to trauma related injuries, birth defects, oral cancer and surgeries. In these cases, it is common for them to work along with a team of other health care professionals, such as: surgeons, ENTs, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, oncologists and others.
They are also especially trained and equipped to provide care to those with TMJ, address the special needs of geriatric patients, and address snoring and sleep disorders.
Since cosmetic dentistry isn't a specific recognized specialty of the ADA, prosthodontics is the field of dentistry that cosmetic dentistry actually falls under. While a general dentist may perform simple esthetic procedures such as crowns, bridges, or implants, full smile reconstruction and complicated cosmetic cases might be more adequately addressed under the care of a prosthodontist.
There are significantly fewer prosthodontists than dentists, however, if you or a family member requires the specialized care of a prosthodontist, visiting this Brighter page can help you locate a prosthodontic professional near you.