Dental technology has come so far over the past several decades. One of the newest and most exciting specialties within the dental profession is prosthodontics. According to the American Dental Association, prosthodontics is “the dental specialty pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment, planning, rehabilitation, and maintenance of oral function, comfort, appearance, and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues using biocompatible substitutes.” In other words, dental professionals who focus in prosthodontics specialize in replacing missing teeth. And thanks to advancements in dental technology, patients now have a much wider variety of options along those lines than they did years ago.
If you are missing one or more teeth, or if you need to have your teeth extracted for whatever reason, your dentist may recommend dentures, bridges, crowns or dental implants. Most of us are familiar with what dentures are – whether a full set or a partial set – but you may not know that modern dentures are often much different than earlier versions. Not only are today’s denture appliances more natural-looking and comfortable, they can also be anchored in place by dental implants, which eliminates the need for messy adhesive gels. Implants are also excellent choices to replace one or more missing teeth. Consisting of a metal rod that is surgically implanted into a patient’s jawbone, an implant fuses to the jawbone, which creates a permanent and sturdy artificial tooth root. A crown is then affixed to the top of the implant. Bridges are still a popular choice for replacing one or more teeth. A bridge is made up of a metal frame that holds one or more crowns and attaches on either end to a patient’s existing natural teeth. A prosthodontist specializes in all of these tooth replacement options.
If you are missing one or more teeth, your dentist might refer you to a prosthodontist for further consultation. But that is not always the case. Many dentists perform the same services for their patients as prosthodontists do, such as fitting them for dentures or bridges and/or inserting implants. The difference is that prosthodontists are required to take advanced-level graduate courses in these procedures, and unlike general dentists, prosthodontists perform only those procedures that are part of their area of expertise.
Whether your missing teeth are replaced by your regular dentist or a prosthodontist, one thing is certain: we can all enjoy the benefits that come from the remarkable advancements in dental technology that have taken place in recent years.