Prothodontics is one of the nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. A prosthodontist is a specialist in comprehensive treatment planning and the esthetic reconstruction of worn, decayed, chipped or fractured, or missing teeth. Patients that seek the care of a prosthodontist may require treatment for a single missing or discolored tooth to a full mouth rehabilitation. In addition, a prosthodontist can evaluate patients with bite or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems. A prosthodontist is committed to the highest standard of care to restore the esthetics, comfort, and function of your teeth.
Common Prosthodontic Procedures Include:
Traditional methods to replace a missing tooth or teeth include the fabrication of a bridge. To replace a missing tooth with a bridge, at least one tooth on either side of the space created by the missing tooth must be prepared for a crown. Then a false tooth is joined to the crowns, and the entire structure is permanently cemented to the prepared teeth. The bridge cannot be removed and special aids are available to keep it clean.
An esthetic and longer lasting alternative to a traditional filling is a ceramic inlay. The old filling or decay is removed from a tooth and a porcelain inlay is fabricated from an impression of the tooth. The inlay is custom made for your tooth and is permanently cemented.
When a patient no longer has any natural teeth, complete dentures are the traditional method to restore function and appearance. Although many patients are successful denture wearers, some patients experience difficulty wearing conventional dentures because of poor stability and decreased chewing function. The use of dental implants to improve the stability and retention of dentures is becoming quite popular.
Cosmetic/ Esthetic Dentistry
All people want to have an attractive smile and many people seek to improve their smile. Prosthodontists are the dental specialists that initially determined what constitutes an attractive smile and what measures to take to appropriately improve the appearance of a smile. This can most often be accomplished by tooth whitening, bonding, all-ceramic crowns or veneers. Often the prosthodontist will pair up with the orthodontist to correct the position of the teeth before placing restorations.
(See Cosmetic Dentistry and Orthodontics for more details).
A crown is an all metal, all ceramic, or metal and ceramic restoration that covers a tooth. It is often the treatment of choice for teeth that may be at risk for further breakdown or fracture. The teeth that are most likely candidates for crowns are teeth with large fillings, broken cusps, or that have been treated with a root canal. In addition, patients with extremely worn teeth require many crowns to restore the lost tooth structure.
Dental Implants replace the roots of missing teeth. They are most commonly made of titanium and they are easily placed into the bone by an implant surgeon. Once healing from the placement occurs, the implant is integrated with the bone and is ready to be restored. An implant may be placed to replace a single tooth or multiple implants may be placed to replace several or all missing teeth. In addition, implants are commonly placed to serve as attachments for complete dentures.
Nightguards/ Post-treatment Interocclusal Devices
A nightguard is a hard plastic protective device that fits over your upper teeth. A nightguard is often recommended for patients that suffer from clenching or grinding of their teeth (bruxism) or TMJ discomfort. Nightguards are routinely recommended for patients that have completed extensive prosthodontic care to protect the new restorations on their teeth.
Removable Partial Dentures
If several teeth are missing, a removable partial denture is a treatment option. It is commonly made of a strong, durable metal framework that anchors onto the remaining teeth with acrylic to replace the missing teeth and gum tissue. Removable partial dentures must be removed for cleaning and at night.
A veneer restores teeth that are small, short, chipped, permanently discolored or not properly shaped or contoured. The tooth most often needs to be gently prepared, so that the veneer is not too large or overcontoured. Once this is completed, the veneer is fabricated in a dental laboratory from an impression of the prepared teeth and permanently bonded to the enamel. Porcelain veneers are strong and stain resistant and can give you a beautiful, natural looking smile.
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