A prosthodontist is a dentist who specializes in making and fitting dentures, crowns, and bridges. These oral prostheses are used to replace missing teeth, correct deformities, help patients eat or speak, and improve appearance.
This field, also called prosthetic dentistry, entails all the duties of a dentist. Additional training is needed to work with prostheses. Most dentists of all kinds work in offices and laboratories at private practices or clinics, and perform operations at hospitals and surgical centers.
Students hoping to become prosthodontists should expect to invest significant amounts of money and time into their education and training. Practitioners are rewarded with salaries of more than $200,000, as well as the satisfaction of knowing they improve patients’ lives. Job growth in the field is expected to remain strong.
Prosthodontist Job Description
As dentists, prosthodontists assess and examine patients to make diagnoses of oral illnesses, diseases, and deformities. They recommend treatment, which may involve administering anesthesia and conducting surgery.
They clean, straighten, repair, and extract teeth; fill cavities; and perform surgery on diseased gums and the bones that support them. Prosthodontists measure teeth removed from patients, so they can make properly sized and shaped wax models for dentures and other prostheses. Much of this work is done in a laboratory.
Dental equipment includes drills, probes, forceps, scalpels, brushes, mouth mirrors, face bows, dental articulators, and other devices. Dentists also employ diagnostic procedures like X-rays.The prosthodontist job description includes:
- Interview patients to learn about their medical histories, complaints, and symptoms;
- Examine patients with X-rays and other equipment to make diagnoses;
- Create charts of patients’ mouths;
- Take measurements for prostheses like dentures, crowns, and bridges;
- Make wax models of prostheses, and supervise dental technicians and laboratory bench workers in doing so;
- Send models to lab companies that manufacture prostheses;
- Place prostheses in patients’ mouths, making adjustments to make them fit properly;
- Repair, rebase, and reline dentures;
- Administer anesthesia, and prescribe medications like antibiotics;
- Conduct surgery to repair structures of the mouth to enable those who have suffered injuries or diseases to regain functions;
- Employ bonding methods to alter the shape of teeth and close gaps between them, to improve function or appearance;
- Treat ailments that cause pain in the face and jaw;
- Use veneers to hide tooth defects, and bleach teeth to make them whiter;
- Advise patients about brushing, flossing, and other elements of oral health care;
- Consult with other practitioners (including dentists, doctors, and specialists) to determine treatment methods;
- If the operator of a private practice, perform business tasks involving employee supervision and management, finance and administration, and marketing;
- Maintain equipment and order supplies.
A range of skills is needed to do this job well. Prosthodontists must be able to effectively communicate with patients, to understand their needs and explain procedures to them. A calm, professional, reassuring manner helps people with dental pain or other problems to relax and feel confident that they are in competent hands.
Conducting examinations, taking measurements of oral structures, creating wax models, and making prostheses fit properly all require focus and attention to detail. Good eye-hand coordination and precision, as well as analytical ability, are necessary.
As most prosthodontists run their own offices or clinics, they also must be skilled at hiring, supervising, and firing employees. They need business abilities, like knowing how to create a spreadsheet and make a budget.
Prosthodontists are exposed to infectious diseases, though the use of mouth covers and latex gloves generally provides sufficient protection.
How to Become a Prosthodontist
The first step to becoming a prosthodontist is to earn a bachelor’s degree, preferably with a science major, from a four-year college. Courses in biology, chemistry, and physiology are recommended.
Next, students should attend a four-year program at a dental school accredited by the American Dental Education Association. Anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, and laboratory procedures are among the classes. Completion of such a degree program results in a doctor of dentistry degree.
To specialize in prosthodontics, dentists must do post-graduate study and take part in a residency program for another three or four years.
To practice, these practitioners need to be certified by the American Board of Prosthodontics. Requirements include the necessary education and training, passing certification exams, and writing research papers.
A state-issued license also is required. Each state’s medical-licensing board has a website with details about how to qualify and apply.
Click here for Prosthodontist Salary Page
Prosthodontist Job Description Summary
- Make and fit dentures, crowns, and bridges
- Work with other dentists and dental assistants
- 4 year dental school program
- 3 to 4 years of residency program
- Must be licensed to practice
- 15% employment growth by 2022