What is Prosthetic Dentistry?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Prosthetic dentistry is a category of dentistry focused on the replacement or restoration of teeth. The primary types of dental prosthetic devices include full and partial dentures; crowns; bridges; and implants. In prosthetic dentistry, these devices are used to fill in parts of the mouth that are missing teeth, reconstruct teeth, restore function in this area, and improve a person’s smile. Though these prosthetic devices may all be used for the same purpose, they all have a slightly different function.

The parts of a tooth.
The parts of a tooth.

Often, dentures are used in prosthetic dentistry. Dentures are removable teeth that are meant to replace a person’s missing teeth. For example, if a person has lost all of his natural teeth or had them pulled, he may obtain dentures. Dentures usually have an acrylic base that is flesh colored so it will look like a person’s gum tissue; this base fits over a person’s natural gum tissue. The upper denture usually has a base that covers the roof of a person’s mouth as well while the bottom leaves this section out to make room for the tongue.

Partial dentures.
Partial dentures.

Partial dentures are also used in prosthetic dentistry. A partial denture is a little different because it is used when a person still has some of his natural teeth. This type of device also has an acrylic base that resembles gum tissue. It usually has spaces in place for the natural teeth to show through and false teeth to fill in the areas where teeth are missing.

An illustration of a dental implant with a titanium abutment.
An illustration of a dental implant with a titanium abutment.

Crowns are also frequently used in prosthetic dentistry. Often made of porcelain, crowns are used when part of the tooth structure has been lost or suffered significant deterioration. In such a case, using a dental filling may further damage the tooth or degrade its appearance. Instead, the damaged tooth may be covered with a porcelain crown, which serves to improve its appearance and hold it together. Crowns usually resemble the patient’s tooth color so they are difficult to note when he smiles.

In prosthetic dentistry, dentists often make impressions of the teeth to create dentures, crowns, bridges and implants.
In prosthetic dentistry, dentists often make impressions of the teeth to create dentures, crowns, bridges and implants.

A bridge is another type of device that is often used in prosthetic dentistry to replace missing teeth. Often, bridges are put in place not just for appearances sake, but also to ensure the stability of a person’s bite. They may also help prevent the teeth that are adjacent to the area from tilting. In many cases, crowns surround the false tooth that will fill the gap; the crowns that surround the false tooth are, in turn, attached to healthy adjacent teeth. There are other types of bridges, however.

Dental implants can brighten and improve a person's smile.
Dental implants can brighten and improve a person's smile.

Prosthetic dentistry also involves the use of implants. They are false teeth that are meant to stay in a person’s mouth instead of being removed like dentures. To create an implant, dentists usually place a titanium screw into the bone of a person’s jaw and allow it to fuse in place. A top is later placed over the screw and covered with a crown.

Dentures are used in prosthetic dentistry.
Dentures are used in prosthetic dentistry.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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