What is Prosthodontist?
Prosthodontics is one of the nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA). Prosthodontists are dental specialists in the restoration and replacement of teeth.
Extensive training and experience provide prosthodontists with a special understanding of the dynamics of a smile, the preservation of a healthy mouth and the creation of tooth replacements.
Serving as the “architect” of a dental treatment plan, prosthodontists collaborate with general dentists, specialists and other health professionals to develop solutions to your dental and oral health concerns. They provide an extremely high level of care to patients with missing teeth, or those who have significant damage to their existing teeth. These specialists work with congenital defects, as well as, problems arising from trauma and neglect.
Prosthodontists are highly trained in state-of-the-art techniques and procedures for treating many diverse and complex dental conditions and restoring optimum function and esthetics. These include: crowns, bridges, complete and removable partial dentures, dental implants, TMJ (jaw joint) problems, traumatic injuries to the mouth’s structures and/or teeth, snoring or sleep disorders and oral cancer reconstruction and continuing care.
The American College of Prosthodontists (ACP) ensures standards are maintained in the field. Becoming a prosthodontist requires an additional three years of postgraduate specialty training after obtaining a dental degree. Training consists of rigorous clinical and didactic preparation in the basic sciences; head and neck anatomy, biomedical sciences, biomaterial sciences, function of occlusion (bite), TMJ, and treatment planning and experience treating full-mouth reconstruction cases, and esthetics. Due to this extensive training, prosthodontists are required to treat complex cases, full-mouth rehabilitation, TMJ-related disorders, congenital disorders, and sleep apnea by planning and fabricating various prostheses. There are only 3,200 prosthodontists in comparison to 170,000 general dentists in the United States.
Board certification is awarded through the American Board of Prosthodontics and requires successful completion of the Part I written examination and Part 2, 3 and 4 oral examinations. The written exam and one oral exam may be taken during the 3rd year of speciality training and the remaining two oral examinations taken following completion of speciality training. Board eligibility starts when an application is approved by the ABP and lasts for six years. Diplomates of the ABP are ethically required to have a practice limited to prosthodontics. Fellows of the American College of Prosthodontists (FACP) are required to have a dental degree, have completed three years of prosthodontic speciality training, and be board certified by the ABP.
According to the ADA, specialties are recognized in those areas where advanced knowledge and skills are essential to maintain or restore oral health (Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct). Not all areas in dentistry will satisfy the requirements for specialty recognition. Acknowledged by the profession, the contributions of such and their endeavors are encouraged.
The American Dental Association does not recognize cosmetic dentistry as a speciality. Prosthodontics is the only dental speciality under which the concentration of cosmetic/esthetic dentistry falls. General dentists may perform some simple cosmetic procedures. Consequently, there are questions regarding whether it is ethical for general dentists to treat “smile makeovers” or complex cosmetic and full-mouth reconstruction cases, as they are not qualified to address the complex needs of the patient. Likewise, there is no specialty recognized by the ADA for dental implants.
There are only 4,275 prosthodontists in comparison to over 186,000 general dentists in the United States. All prosthodontics are trained to think globally when considering the mouth, but not all prosthodontists are created equally. For starters, of those 4,275 prosthodontists, only about ¼ of them are board certified.
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