Throughout history, the functional and aesthetic value of the teeth has always been appreciated.
Ancient cultures around the world experimented with tooth replacement methods, often with mixed results. Thankfully, by the 20th century, the processes used to create and install dental appliances became more standardized, and the National Society of Denture Prosthetics, known today as the Academy of Prosthodontics, was formed.
Prosthodontists continue to improve their craft today, as the available materials, technology, and techniques improve each year. With leading “oral architects” Dr. Huang and Dr. Chi on staff, PearlFection Dentistry in Frederick, MD and Urbana, MD provides unmatched convenience and expertise for patients in need of dental prosthetics and other advanced restorative or cosmetic treatments.
What is a Prosthodontist?
According to the American Dental Association (ADA) definition, a prosthodontist is a dental specialist who focuses on the restoration of the natural teeth and/or the replacement of missing teeth with artificial substitutes (prostheses)
Denture Specialists vs Regular Dentist
Although many general dentists also include tooth replacement and cosmetic dentistry in their practice, prosthodontists are recognized as the experts due to their extensive education, training, and experience. The prosthodontist also works closely with a qualified dental lab, where skilled technicians combine art and science to create realistic crowns, dentures, and bridges to match a patient’s natural smile.
What does a Prosthodontist do?
For most prosthodontists, the primary focus is on tooth replacement (restorative dentistry), although they also diagnose and treat a variety of health issues including sleep apnea, cleft palates, and other congenital or trauma-related facial issues.
Options for replacing missing or damaged teeth
Restorative dentistry includes basic crowns, veneers, and bridges along with dentures and dental implants.
- Bridges are removable appliances linking two or more crowns together that fit on top of or between natural teeth. A dental bridge is a less invasive way to remedy gaps in the smile without implant surgery.
- Dentures are larger appliances used to replace most or all of the upper and/or lower teeth (arch). Some are temporarily fixed in place by the patient using a safe dental adhesive, while an implant supported denture is permanently installed and secured to the jawbone.
Other treatments and procedures performed by prosthodontists
- Sleep apnea treatment – Sleep apnea affects millions of people, causing soft tissues in the throat to collapse and obstruct the airway during sleep. This can lead to disruptive snoring, exhaustion, and other physical issues. Using specialized dental appliances, prosthodontists can manage and alleviate sleep apnea symptoms.
- Maxillofacial procedures – Qualified prosthodontists work with patients to reconstruct facial features including the nose, ears, eyes, and jaw when a correction is needed due to cancer, trauma, or congenital issues. Dr. Chi of PearlFection Dentistry has to his credit a fellowship in Oral Oncology and Maxillofacial Prosthodontics from the University of Texas. His research in this field has been recognized on numerous occasions.
- Same day denture – Comprehensive, full-service dental offices offer same day denture and crown service when time is of the essence. Computer-Aided Design/Computer-
Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technology makes it possible to fabricate laboratory-grade crowns and dentures in the office in just minutes.
Types of Dental Implants
No matter the cause, the loss of natural teeth can be traumatic. More than 300,000 people in the U.S. alone receive a new dental implant each year. Fortunately, implant technology has improved dramatically and the options for patients have expanded.
Commonly used endosteal type implants consist of a screw-like (usually titanium) post that is secured to the jawbone. An abutment segment attached to the implant holds the realistic porcelain crown in place.
- Single implant – this option is ideal when only one tooth is missing. The prosthodontist, sometimes working with an oral surgeon and periodontist, uses a single implant screw, abutment, and crown combination to replace the missing tooth both aesthetically and functionally.
- Implant supported denture – a series of dental implants can be used to permanently fix a complete appliance to the jawbone, providing greater convenience and a more natural look and feel than removable dentures.
- Three on six dental implant – this method divides an upper or lower denture into three segments, with each part supported by two dental implants.
- All on four denture – this type of implant supported denture uses four or more individual implants to support a full upper or lower arch. The relatively small number of implants improves recovery time. This method of securing dentures has become increasingly popular and certain offices, like PearlFection Dentistry in Frederick Maryland and their prosthodontic and oral surgery teams, work together to deliver this option for dentures to their patients.
Becoming a Prosthodontist
Becoming a prosthodontist requires many years of dedicated study and training. After completing a bachelor’s degree, four additional years of dental school are needed to obtain a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry) degree and board certification as a dentist.
Competitive residency programs for prosthodontics admit very few students and maintain high standards and expectations during the three years of intense training. Third year residents are likely to see patients five days a week and perform their own dental lab work at night. Critical thinking, decision making, and active learning are some of the traits that lead to successful completion of residency and board accreditation from the American Board of Prosthodontics (ABP).
Despite these challenging requirements, elite prosthodontics, including Dr. Huang and Dr. Chi of PearlFection Dentistry, choose to further their educational journey. While Dr. Chi went on to pursue his Maxillofacial Prosthetics fellowship, Dr. Huang now educates a new generation of prosthodontists as a Clinical Assistant Professor for the University of Maryland Dental School.
Choosing a Prosthodontist
Consultation with a general dentist is good first step in deciding whether you need restorative dental treatment, and if so, which option is best for you. Having all dental specialties under one roof makes it easy for the team to provide convenient, highly rated, and board-certified prosthodontist options. In some cases, the prosthodontist might also be working with an oral surgeon and periodontist;
If you have lost a tooth (or teeth) to decay, infection, or injury, a prosthodontist can restore both your smile and your bite. The dentists and specialists are here to help so call to set up a consultation.