Definition and Overview
Prosthodontists are the medical professionals to see when a patient wishes to restore the appearance of healthy teeth. Procedures typically involve those that replace missing teeth or the installation of prostheses that can dramatically improve the patient's appearance. Prosthodontics, also known as prosthetic dentistry or dental prosthetics, involves many different steps, starting from the initial consultation to the installation of prosthesis and its maintenance to ensure patients’ oral health.
Prosthodontists are responsible for identifying dental problems, planning an appropriate treatment that will yield best results, supervising the manufacture and installation of dental prostheses, and ensuring that the function and appearance of the teeth and related structures are properly maintained without compromising comfort and health. Aside from restoring the healthy appearance of teeth, prosthodontists are also trained to address a variety of clinical conditions caused by tooth loss, which often extend to maxillofacial and oral tissues. These clinical conditions include oral cancer, problems in the jawbone joint, traumatic injuries, and sleep disorders, among others.
During a prosthodontist consultation, the patient can be introduced to a variety of options that will offer the best solution to the problem. These include crowns, veneers, full or partial dentures, dental implants, and bridges.
There are also different subspecialties in the field of prosthodontics. Some professionals subspecialize in full mouth reconstruction, especially in the event of disease or an injury. Some are into cosmetic dentistry, which uses a variety of dental prostheses and procedures that aim to improve the cosmetic appeal of the teeth. There are also some prosthodontists who specialize in providing rehabilitative care and treatment for complex oral, dental and facial issues.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
The prosthodontist is the dental professional to see if the patient has:
- Lost one or more permanent teeth
- Full or partial dentures
- An unappealing smile, which can be caused by crooked teeth
- Suffered from mouth cancer
- Suffered from injuries that resulted in oral or dental problems and dysfunction
- Congenital conditions that affect the function of the mouth, such as a cleft palate
- Sleep disorders that disrupt day-to-day life, including snoring
- Problems with the jaw joint, such as TMD (temporomandibular disorders), which can cause severe discomfort and pain.
The expected result of an initial consultation with a prosthodontist is the identification of the root cause of the oral and dental problem as well as treatment options. The patient can also be given advice on the maintenance and proper care of existing prosthesis.
For the prosthodontist, developing an efficient treatment plan from the information obtained from the initial consultation is the priority. The patient’s oral or dental conditions must be addressed through a treatment plan that can promote general oral and dental health without sacrificing comfort, convenience and safety.
How is the Procedure Performed?
Most prosthodontists require their patients to make an appointment before coming in for a consultation. During the first consultation, the prosthodontist will ask general questions about the issues or symptoms being experienced by the patient. This can be immediately followed by a quick visual inspection of the patient’s mouth and teeth. Depending on the problem, the prosthodontist can then order a dental x-ray or other types of imaging procedures to diagnose the root cause of the issue, or to assess the dental and oral structures to develop an appropriate treatment plan.
The initial consultation can be followed by preparatory procedures for the development and manufacture of the prosthesis. In the case of dentures, the prosthodontist will take impressions of the patient’s teeth to make for the best fit. The prosthodontist will then assist the patient in selecting the right shape, size, and even color for the dental prosthesis. Dentures usually take two to four weeks to manufacture and during this period, the patient will be provided with temporary dentures to wear until the new dentures are ready.
In the case of dental implants, the patient will be made to undergo an initial assessment to determine the health of the gums and bones where the root implants will be placed. The root implants will be installed surgically. After the surgical procedure, the patient has to wait between four and six months until the implants have integrated into the bone. Only after the osseointegration is completed will the prosthodontist attach the artificial teeth to the root implants.
More consultations might be required to ensure the health and maintenance of dental prostheses.
Possible Risks and Complications
The consultation and diagnostic procedures performed during the meeting between the prosthodontist and patient do not entail any risk. The risk and complications, such as infections and discomfort, often occur if surgical procedures are performed.
- American Dental Association
- Royal College of Dentists of Canada
- Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons
- American College of Prosthodontics