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If you get into an accident and lose a tooth, or need a crown in your mouth, then you will undoubtedly visit a prosthodontist. Prosthodontists are dentists with special training in making replacements for missing teeth or other structures of the oral cavity to restore the patient's appearance, comfort and health.

Prosthodontists concentrate on the reconstruction of our dentition in the form of full or partial dentures, crowns, caps, and bridges, or implant restorations. Much of their time focuses on full mouth reconstructions of a person's bite, yet unlike denturists or other closely related dental specialists, their cases are usually highly complex. Prosthodontists may also specialize in teeth whitening; a newer process and trend in the field of dentistry. Now that safe techniques exist, people who wish to whiten their stained teeth for better appearance or other personal reasons can easily do so.

Prosthodontics involves the diagnosis, treatment planning, and care of patients in need of extensive restorative and reconstructive dentistry. Patients will typically have missing, abraded or eroded teeth or they may also have poorly fitting prosthesis, destructive parafunctional habits, facial pain, or advanced periodontal disease. If you lose a tooth, for instance, the prosthodontist will replace it with implant surgery.

Prosthodontists are educated to meet the needs of patients through advanced training in removable, fixed, implant, and maxillofacial prosthodontics. Most patients get referred to a prosthodontist because of the high degree of complexity and precision of the rehabilitative dentistry they require. Prosthodontists work with patients for a long period due to the amount of time needed for diagnosis, treatment planning, and the treatment procedures.

A prosthodontist often works closely with other dental professionals to successfully meet the oral health needs of the patients. This requires the assistance of the general dentist, other dental specialists and often the dental laboratory technician.

Maxillofacial prosthetics is a subspecialty of prosthodontics, which deals with the facial components of dental prosthetics. For example, patients may require surgery of diseased facial bones or implanted portions of the mouth are fitted with prostheses to replace these tissues or structures. Maxillofacial prosthodontists design and construct these more intricate parts, which may also include prostheses to replace a missing ear, eye, or nose. Frequently, this work is performed as part of a practice within the hospital setting.
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  Interests and Skills  
Prosthodontists must have good health, eyesight, and good finger and manual dexterity. They must have a gentle, delicate touch and a good degree of mechanical aptitude and ability. They require great interpersonal skills, and can communicate with all of their patients, trying to make them feel more comfortable. They also have the ability to understand and handle many different types and ages of people. Successful prosthodontists enjoy doing precise work with tools and equipment, and helping people.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Consult with patients about prosthodontic procedures to replace missing teeth, and plan appropriate surgical treatment
  • Install crowns, caps and bridges
  • Educate patients who are psychologically afraid of dental prostheses
  • Restore, extract and replace diseased, missing and decayed teeth
  • Perform oral surgery and other maxillofacial treatments
  • Supervise dental technicians, dental assistants and other staff
  • Most prosthodontists work eight-hour days during the week, but in order to meet patient time constraints, some may also work weekends and evenings. An on-call schedule may be an aspect of this specialty. Trauma and other emergency situations necessitate prompt emergency care by a prosthodontist. Prosthodontics is a high stress occupation due to working with people who are in pain, need prostheses and are often afraid of them.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most prosthodontists work in clinical settings, such as hospitals, dental clinics, outpatient surgical centers, public health facilities, universities or own their own private practices. Directly upon graduation, they may engage in private practice, however, these days, partnerships with established dental practitioners and group practices are becoming increasingly popular. Better opportunities exist in smaller towns and city centers where the market has yet to be saturated. Some prosthodontists work for government health services.

  Long Term Career Potential  
A broad range of career options is available including private practice, hospital practice, teaching, and research. Otherwise, since it takes so many years of school to become a prosthodontist, once established, they usually stay within the industry and move into more supervisory positions. Prosthodontists are usually affiliated with local and regional hospitals.

  Educational Paths  
Prosthodontists have a long educational road ahead of them after high school. They are required have a bachelor of science degree, or at least two years of undergraduate education along with passing an entrance exam to dental school. The next step is to obtain a degree from a recognized dental program. Then prosthodontists must take a three-year program in prosthodontics to receive a certificate and/or master's degree in prosthodontics upon completion of the program. An additional two to four years may be spent obtaining a joint MD or a PhD degree depending on individual career goals.

Prosthodontists must be licensed to practice dentistry and prosthodontics. Each region has a licensing body that establishes regulations and requirements for the licensure of general practitioners and specialists within the jurisdiction. Contact the regulatory authority in your jurisdiction to obtain detailed information about licensure, registration, and fees.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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