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What Is a Prosthodontist and Why You Might Need One

You only get one set of adult teeth in your lifetime. So, understandably, you’re particular about who cares for your teeth. Besides just being picky about your dental care, you may face some fears when it comes to seeing a dentist…

 

  • The drilling
  • Fear of injections
  • Unpleasant past dental experiences
  • Embarrassment over the state of your teeth and mouth

 

In fact, 36% of Americans experience some degree of dental anxiety.1 

 

Just like with any medical procedure, a dental procedure forces you to put total trust in your provider. 

 

A little anxiety is natural. Plus, there are general dentists, orthodontists, periodontists, prosthodontists, endodontists… it can be confusing to try to figure out what type of provider you need, which can add to the anxiety. 

 

Finding the right dental provider can make a huge difference in putting your mind at ease. Let’s take a look at what differentiates a general dentist from a prosthodontist, so you know which option best fits your needs.

 

What Is the Difference Between a Dentist and a Prosthodontist?

 

You likely already know what a dentist is. But depending on the needs of your teeth, you may or may not know what a prosthodontist is. Let’s define the two and break down the differences.

Dentists

Dentists are doctors who care for your teeth and mouth. They get a bachelor’s degree, go to four years of dental school, and must pass Dental Board exams in order to practice dentistry. Together with a team of hygienists, dental assistants, and lab technicians, dentists provide routine dental care by:

 

  • Cleaning teeth and removing build-up
  • Detecting decay using physical exams, x-rays, other diagnostic tools
  • Filling cavities
  • Repairing or removing damaged teeth
  • Educating patients on dental hygiene 
  • Administering anesthesia for procedures
  • Checking the health of the gums

 

A general dentist’s main objective is to maintain optimal oral health and repair teeth when needed.

 

Prosthodontists

Prosthodontists are specialized dentists. They go through the same level of education and training as general dentists, then complete a three-year post-graduate prosthodontic program. This program gives prosthodontists advanced training in aesthetic restoration and replacement of teeth.2 

 

After completing this program, there is an option for prosthodontists to become board-certified, although only about 30% of all prosthodontists take this step.² At Middle Tennessee Prosthodontists, we pride ourselves on being a practice where all of our prosthodontists are board-certified and up-to-date on state-of-the-art prosthodontic procedures.

 

Practicing prosthodontists can provide standard dental care, but specialize in:

 

  • Making dentures and partial dentures
  • Placing crowns and bridges
  • Placing veneers, implants, and all-on-four implants
  • Cosmetic dentistry

 

While dentists aim to repair teeth and maintain oral health, prosthodontists repair and replace teeth to restore optimal oral health.2

 

Many dentists are certified and capable of doing the above procedures, but prosthodontists are specially trained for these restorative procedures. In fact, they often take on complex cases that can’t be fixed in a general dentist’s office. In these cases, prosthodontists and general dentists often collaborate to come up with the best plan of action for their patients.

 

Prosthodontic Services

As mentioned, prosthodontists specialize in restorative dental procedures, but they also are highly trained dentists who can offer a full range of general dentistry. However, services that prosthodontists are specialized in include veneers, dentures, implants, crowns, bridges, and cosmetic procedures.

 

Veneers

 

Veneers are thin pieces of porcelain that are bonded to the teeth. They’re sometimes used to cosmetically enhance your teeth to look straighter or whiter. But they can also be used to repair minor damage to the teeth.

Dentures

Dentures are a traditional replacement for missing teeth. Typically dentures are removable and are not designed to be a permanent fixture in your mouth. Some people need complete dentures to replace all of their teeth, while others only need a partial denture to replace a portion of missing teeth. Dentures are the more traditional restorative option for replacing missing teeth.

Implants

 

Dental implants are a more modern option for the replacement of missing teeth. Placing dental implants requires minor surgery to “screw” the implant into the jaw bone. 

 

Dental implants often feel more stable than dentures and make chewing easier. While surgery might sound scary, many patients rave that it’s worth it. 

Crowns

When a tooth is damaged due to decay or injury, it can lose its shape. A crown is essentially a “cap” – that is a tooth-shaped cover that fits over the remainder of your tooth. It protects your tooth from further damage and restores the function and appearance of your tooth.

Bridges

If you have one or a couple of missing teeth, a prosthodontist can close the gaps in your teeth with a bridge. A bridge is a false tooth that is anchored by surrounding teeth or implants. A bridge can be a great option to make chewing easier and restore your smile.

Cosmetic Dentistry

 

Cosmetic dentistry includes all the procedures involved in aesthetically enhancing your smile. This can include teeth whitening, veneers, and crowns.

 

Cosmetic dentistry is becoming more and more popular, as about a third of adults say improving the appearance of their teeth would boost their self-esteem.3 The good news is, prosthodontists are experts at all things smile enhancing.

 

When It’s Right To Choose a Prosthodontist

 

General dentists and prosthodontists are both highly skilled dental providers. No matter if it’s a general dentist or a prosthodontist, it’s important that you have a provider you trust to do your routine exams and cleanings, and even fill the occasional cavity.

 

However, we find that when it comes to restorative treatment or cosmetic dentistry, especially in complex cases, our patients want to know that they’re in the best hands possible. 

 

Not only are you electing to undergo a medical procedure, but you’re probably facing some fears. Trusting anyone, even an experienced prosthodontist with your smile is a big deal.

 

We respect that this is an important choice to make. And we’re confident that when it comes to restorative treatment, a board-certified, experienced prosthodontist in our office is the best option.

 

We truly love what we do at Middle Tennessee Prosthodontics because fixing your teeth improves your quality of life and boosts your confidence. 

 

If you’re ready to take your oral health to the next level, request an appointment here or call us at (615) 690-5400!

 

References:

 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5586885/
  2. https://www.prosthodontics.org/about-acp/position-statement-what-is-a-prosthodontist-and-the-dental-specialty-of-prosthodontics/
  3. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/study-shows-that-one-third-of-american-adults-are-unhappy-with-their-smile-179281261.html

 

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