Have you ever seen the amazing before and after photos of an individual whose mouth has been completely transformed? Have you marveled over how someone who once suffered from extensive dental issues now seems to have absolutely outstanding oral health? If so, chances are that you are admiring the work of a skilled prosthodontist.
A prosthodontist is one of nine special types of dental professionals who have gone beyond the normal four years of dental school and received an additional three years of advanced dental training through a program accredited by the American Dental Association. A prosthodontist understands all of the various elements that contribute to an optimally functional and aesthetic smile, which includes not only the teeth but also the gums, lips, facial features and soft tissues in the mouth. Their primary concern is the restoration or replacement of teeth that have been lost or damaged due to injury or decay.
The main dental treatments that fall under prosthodontics include:
- Veneers. Where the size, shape or color of one’s teeth detract from the overall aesthetics of their smile, veneers may be a good restorative option. Veneers are extremely thin shells that are placed over the front surfaces of teeth in order to change their general appearance. In some cases veneers can even be used successfully in order to close small gaps between teeth. It is very important that you carefully discuss with your dentist/prosthodontist whether veneers are right for you, since their placement requires the removal of a small amount a tooth enamel, which makes them irreversible.
- Crowns. Dental crowns, which are also known as caps, are used in situations where the entire visible portion of the tooth needs to be covered, protected, or strengthened. For this reason they are often used in situations where a root canal has been performed, or where a tooth has been fractured or broken or is badly misshapen. The crown can be made of metal, porcelain fused to metal or all ceramic and it is cemented over the tooth.
- Fixed bridges. Where an individual needs to replace lost or missing teeth but dental implants are not workable or desired, a fixed bridge can work well. Existing, healthy teeth on either side of the missing tooth or teeth can be used to help support artificial teeth placed in the gap. This is done through the placement of crowns that then support a fixed bridge, which in turn supports the artificial tooth or teeth. The resultant distribution of bite forces can help to ensure the individual’s oral health is restored and maintained following tooth loss.
- Dentures. Another option to replace lost or missing teeth is the use of either full or partial dentures. As the names imply, full dentures are used when all teeth are lost or missing whereas partial dentures are used when just some teeth are lost or missing. Dentures are made in a special dental laboratory based on a dental impression that has been taken, and are therefore designed to fit a specific individual’s mouth. They are very helpful in restoring the structure, function and appearance of an individual’s mouth where tooth loss has occurred. Well made and cared for, they can work for a long time and be of great benefit to the individual’s oral health.
- Fillings. While they are considerably smaller in nature than the treatments that have been listed earlier, dental fillings are often considered part of prosthodontics, since they help to restore the structure, function and appearance of the mouth. There are many types of dental fillings used for specific situations and in order to address specific concerns–for example tooth-colored fillings that will not stand out obviously when placed in more visible areas of the mouth.
Along with helping to restore an individual’s oral health and smile, prosthodontists are also trained to perform oral cancer screenings and they can diagnose and treat sleep apnea and temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMD. They have the education, experience and expertise to treat some of the more difficult dental problems one may encounter, which makes them a valuable ally to any dental patient seeking to restore or maintain optimal oral health.
For more information about prosthodontics and what prosthodontic services we offer, contact Today’s Dental now!