If it’s been a while since you’ve gotten regular dental care, or if your dental problems go beyond routine maintenance, your general dentist may have suggested you see a prosthodontist for more specialized dental work. A prosthodontist is a highly trained dental care specialist who has gotten an additional two or three years of training on top of their general dentistry degree. While it may be alarming to hear you need to see a specialist for your dental issues, there’s a lot your prosthodontist can do for you.
What Is a Prosthodontist?
Prosthodontists are dental care specialists whose field is one of nine recognized by the ADA for providing higher-level care to people with unique dental needs. They are oral health professionals who began as general dentists, and then expanded their expertise with an additional 2-3 years of training. Prosthodontists may operate private practice clinics of their own, offering general dentistry and optional specialist care for patients who need it. They can also partner with general dentists and provide specialist care at multiple clinics. Practicing prosthodontists are expected to keep up a fairly high standard of continuing education and periodic recertification to stay near the top of their field.
Who Should See a Prosthodontist?
If your general dentist has suggested an appointment with a prosthodontist, it’s likely that you have dental needs that require a higher than usual level of care. Prosthodontists can repair extensive tooth and gum damage caused by decay, trauma or serious medical conditions. They are also practiced in restoring lost or damaged sections of jawbone, reversing some of the wear that comes with years of neglect and fixing emergency dental problems, such as chipped or lost teeth.
Prosthodontists are especially skilled at developing and installing complex dental architecture and prosthetic devices. If you are missing multiple teeth, or if decay or injury have left you with extensive loss of tooth, gum or bony tissue, you may need a prosthodontist to fix the damage. Using some of the most advanced equipment and treatment methods, skilled prosthodontists can restore even very badly damaged mouth structures, gradually bringing your teeth and jaw back to a healthy, functional and attractive state.
Common Prosthodontic Services
Prosthodontists all start out as general dentists, so they’re technically capable of giving you all the same exam and maintenance services you get during routine office visits. They are also capable of consulting with you about the state of your oral health, educating you about complex dental issues you may have and the treatments for them, and helping to draft a comprehensive care plan that will take your mouth from its current state back to full health. On top of that, some procedures are either exclusive to qualified prosthodontists, or they’re best performed by a specialist who has a lot of experience with them. These include:
Porcelain veneers are thin caps your prosthodontist can install over damage or gaps in your dentition to restore the look and function of a healthy set of teeth. They are durable structures permanently bonded to the back teeth that look and function just like natural incisors and canines. Installing veneers is sometimes tricky, since every patient needs a customized fit, so it helps to work with a prosthodontist who has experience with the procedure.
Dental crowns are protective caps that sit over the stump of an existing tooth, which they protect from further damage or decay. Your prosthodontist may install a crown as an alternative to filling a cavity if the decay has gone far enough to compromise the enamel’s strength. You could also get a crown to repair a broken tooth, or as a protective cap after a root canal that treats an abscess. There’s a dizzying variety of crown designs, materials, installation techniques and other options, and it’s always best to find an expert you’re comfortable with to design the perfect crown for your damaged tooth.
Dental bridges are complex pieces of dental engineering that can replace multiple missing teeth. If a sudden injury or years of decay have left you with a large gap, a prosthodontist may decide that bridging it with a prosthetic is the right choice.
Dental implants are, in effect, replacement teeth that a prosthodontist surgically implants into your jawbone, right where the natural tooth’s roots would be. To all intents and purposes, good implants are indistinguishable from natural teeth, though some implant materials are more durable even than hard natural enamel. Implanting new teeth is sometimes a tricky procedure, and it takes a well-trained professional to do it well.
Dentures, sometimes called false teeth, are replica teeth attached to a removable plate that fits in the mouth. The plate is made from soft molded material that precisely matches the contours of your gums for a snug fit, and the artificial teeth should look and act like your natural teeth did when they were healthy. Dentures are a common choice for older adults whose teeth have worn down or been lost over time, and they can be a relatively simple alternative to implants. Getting fitted by an expert prosthodontist helps ensure you get a good fit with as few visits as possible.
While prosthodontists are not strictly cosmetic dentists, their high level of skill naturally allows them to perform significant cosmetic work for people whose teeth have become unsightly due to discoloration, damage or shifting positions. Consult with a prosthodontist about the specific cosmetic dentistry services they can do for you and develop an individual care plan to restore the way your teeth look.
Should You See a Prosthodontist?
Setting up an appointment with a prosthodontist could be one of the best decisions you make about your oral health. Consulting with a dedicated and highly trained professional is the first step to restoring your teeth to their natural appearance and function. Dr. Steven A. Brisman is an expert prosthodontist with an excellent care team around him. Our practice in Chappaqua is ready to help you get your teeth back to their natural beauty and function. Schedule an appointment today to learn more about the dental services we provide, and start on the road to a restored and healthy smile.