Prosthodontics is the science and practice of cosmetic dentistry. This industry focuses on tooth replacements such as dentures or dental crowns as well as perfecting the art of tooth whitening and corrective surgery. Prosthodontics is divided into fixed and removable categories, depending on the permanence of the corrective device. Practitioners in this discipline also study the effect of oral cancer, traumatic injury, birth defects that affect the teeth as well as develop technologies to help with common problems such as snoring and teeth grinding.
A prosthodontist is a medical professional who has completed two to three years of additional study in the discipline after graduating from dentistry school. These doctors are considered “smile architects,” as they work to restore both the aesthetics of beautiful teeth and proper function. They may work in private practice constructing and placing prosthodontics or toil in research laboratories developing new technologies and techniques for dentists.
Fixed prosthodontics are devices resembling teeth that are permanently implanted within the mouth. A crown is a single replacement tooth that is usually affixed to the stub of a missing tooth. A dental bridge is a larger section of false teeth that are fixed in place with bone grafts or other methods. Fixed prosthodontics are often costly; however, they result in lasting false teeth. Patients with these implants generally care for their new teeth with the same techniques as natural teeth.
Dentures and partials fall into the category of removable prosthodontics. These devices can be taken out of the mouth for cleaning or comfort but do not look or feel as natural as fixed replacement teeth. Patients may experience sores or discomfort as they learn to talk and chew with removable false teeth. These are less costly than permanent replacements and can be adjusted for comfort.
The goal of prosthodontics is to make false teeth look as appealing and natural as possible. Most doctors try to match devices to existing teeth. Patients who have lost all of their teeth or have birth defects that cause them not to grow teeth pose additional problems. In these cases, prosthodontists must craft the entire model of teeth including size and shape. With some patients, they must also work to reconstruct the jaw and gums to achieve the desired effect.
The prosthodontics industry also includes cosmetic dentistry. Patients may have healthy, functional teeth, but be displeased with the appearance of their smiles. In these cases, they may seek prosthodontists to reshape their natural teeth or whiten them to more appealing shades. Prosthodontists are considered experts in designing and engineering perfect smiles.