We are familiar with our dentist – the good-natured, friendly figure that is here to conduct yet another routine check on our teeth and oral hygiene. But even in the field of dentistry, specialties are vast. One such variation within the dental field is the prosthodontist.
Just as there are various types of doctors in the extensive medical field landscape, so it is the same for the school of dentistry. There are generalists, and there are specialists – such as doctors who only carry out heart surgeries, or doctors who are proficient in the mental health field.
As intimidating as the term might seem, prosthodontists engage in a subset of dental specialty that deals, specifically, with oral function, tooth replacement, and also restoration. Quite literally, “prostho” translates to replacement, while “dontist” refers to dealing with teeth. Thus, they are not to be confused with general dentists as they have very specific functions within the field of dentistry.
How does one tell the difference between someone who is a general dentist, and someone who is actually a prosthodontist? It may not be that difficult, even if both professions deal in similar departments when it comes to oral health and function.
The key differences between prosthodontists and general dentists are:
1. General dentists handle routine dental care and minor procedures like fillings. Prosthodontists are ultimately specialists, and carry out more extensive surgeries depending on patient needs. These include:
- Jaw surgery, to adjust and amend facial problems and fix structure
- Dentures, especially for the elderly and those with poor teeth structure and integrity
- Crowning and bridging for teeth restoration
- Cosmetics, meant to handle facial problems
2. General dentists take care of the basics, but prosthodontists are concerned with overall oral health and function.
3. Prosthodontists typically have undergone advanced training (in Singapore, three years more than the general dentist) in teeth replacement and restoration, and are a key part of any dental treatment plan.
They often are the leaders in dental teams, supervising general dentists and specialists as they craft and provide solutions to patients regarding oral care and restoration, due to their superior knowledge and further training.
4. Prosthodontists are often proficient with state-of-the-art technology and treatment methods when it comes to dealing with a missing tooth, or problems concerning all the teeth in your mouth – and even your gums. If a patient faces an issue that severely affects oral function, a prosthodontist is the one who will aid in restoring optimal oral function.
So while prosthodontists and general dentists fall under the same umbrella category of dental care, a prosthodontist is far more extensively trained. Where dentists maintain the health of your teeth, prosthodontists ensure your entire mouth is kept functional and healthy.
However, it does not mean it is a better idea to bypass general dentists and go straight to a prosthodontist for hygiene and general dental issues. Specialists exist for specific reasons, so be sure to remember where the expertise of a prosthodontist lies before approaching one for your dental issues and concerns.