Prosthodontist: Your Prosthetic, Implant & Denture Dentist

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

What is a prosthodontist?

A prosthodontist is a dentist who specializes in the restoration and replacement of missing or damaged teeth and tissues of the mouth, jaw and oral areas. Prosthodontists use advanced techniques in implant, esthetic, and reconstructive dentistry, including bridges, dentures, and implants. The overall goal of prosthodontists is to maintain the oral function, comfort, health, and appearance of people with tooth and oral tissue damage and loss.

A prosthodontist typically: 

  • Evaluates your dental and medical history and performs a dental and oral exam

  • Provides education about prosthetic care, good oral hygiene, and oral disease prevention

  • Orders and interprets laboratory and imaging tests such as X-rays

  • Prescribes medications including antibiotics and pain medications

  • Diagnoses teeth and jaw conditions that require or would benefit from prosthodontic treatment

  • Provides restorative and replacement treatments to improve the appearance and function of the teeth and mouth

  • Works closely with other dental specialists to ensure optimal care

A prosthodontist may also be known by the following terms: prosthetic dentist, denture dentist, or implant dentist.

Who should see a prosthodontist?

People seek care from a prosthodontist for health and cosmetic reasons. A general dentist or other healthcare provider may refer their patients to a prosthodontist to repair or restore damaged or missing teeth or to treat oral or jaw conditions. People who would like to change the appearance of their teeth may also see a prosthodontist.

When should you see a prosthodontist?

You should see an experienced prosthodontist as recommended by your general dentist or healthcare provider or if you have any of the following symptoms or conditions:

  • Congenital (birth) defects of the teeth

  • Cracking in the jaw when talking or chewing, or pain with chewing or biting food

  • Discolored teeth

  • Excessive wear of teeth

  • Missing or damaged teeth

  • Poorly fitting or damaged dentures

  • Snoring, sleep apnea, and other breathing problems while sleeping

You should also consider seeing a prosthodontist under the following situations:

  • You need full or partial dentures, dental implants, or reconstruction after oral cancer or injury.

  • You are dissatisfied with the appearance of your teeth.

What conditions and diseases does a prosthodontist treat?

Prosthodontists may work independently or as a part of a team of specialists to diagnose and treat the following conditions:

  • Birth defects including cleft palate and related teeth abnormalities

  • Cosmetic defects including crooked teeth, stained teeth, and overlapping teeth

  • Sleep disorders including snoring and obstructive sleep apnea

  • Teeth and jaw pain conditions including TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder and bruxism (grinding teeth)

  • Tooth loss and deficient teeth including missing, broken, worn or chipped teeth

A prosthodontist also treats patients with oral cancer who need reconstructive treatment.

What tests does a prosthodontist perform or order?

A prosthodontist can order or perform a variety of diagnostic tests including:

  • Oral exam including your dental and medical history

  • Imaging tests including bitewing, periapical and panoramic X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans

  • Appliance evaluations to ensure your dental appliances and prosthetics fit properly and are not cracked, chipped or damaged

What procedures and treatments does a prosthodontist perform or order?

Prosthodontists perform various procedures and treatments including: 

  • Cleft palate treatments including obturators for palate defects

  • Cosmetic treatments including bonding, veneers, teeth whitening, and reshaping of natural teeth

  • Dental impressions including the creation of molds, custom mouth trays, and master casts

  • Fitting oral appliances including custom mouth guards for sports and appliances to treat teeth grinding, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, and sleep apnea

  • Reconstructive and restorative treatments including full mouth reconstruction, dental implants, and complete and removable partial dentures

  • Tooth repair including inlays, onlays, crowns and bridges

Prosthodontist training and certification

Education, training, experience and certification are key elements in establishing a prosthodontist’s level of competence. A prosthodontist has:

  • Completed three or more years of undergraduate education

  • Graduated with a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree from a four-year dental school accredited by the American Dental Association. DDS and DMD are equivalent degrees and involve the same level of education.

  • Completed two to three years of additional formal training in an accredited prosthodontic graduate program

  • Passed written and practical examinations and is licensed to practice prosthodontics

Prosthodontists can choose to earn board certification from the American Board of Prosthodontics. Certification recognizes that a prosthodontist has demonstrated special knowledge and skills in prosthodontics. Board-certified prosthodontists have:

  • Completed a postdoctoral residency in prosthodontics or other approved training program

  • Passed written and oral examinations by the American Board of Prosthodontics

To maintain certification, a prosthodontist must be recertified every eight years by completing a certain amount of continuing education and a self-assessment examination.

Some prosthodontists further their training in maxillofacial prosthodontics. Maxillofacial prosthodontists replace missing facial structures, including bone or tissue that support the ears, eyes and nose. Maxillofacial prosthodontists help restore oral functions, such as swallowing, chewing and speaking, to people with congenital defects or disabilities or injuries due to disease or trauma.

Maxillofacial prosthodontists complete at least three years of advanced training in complex oral rehabilitation. When considering a maxillofacial prosthodontist, ask for details about the specialist’s education, training and experience.

Was this helpful?
  1. Guidelines for the Certification Process. American Board of Prosthodontics.   .
  2. Treatment Options. American College of Prosthodontists.  
  3. What is a Maxillofacial Prosthodontist? American Academy of Maxillofacial Prosthetics.  .
  4. Why See a Prosthodontist? American College of Prosthodontists.  
  5. Facts& Figures. American College of Prosthodontists.  

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2017 Nov 17
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