A prosthodonist is a dentist who specializes in the aesthetic (or cosmetic) restoration and replacement of teeth. These specialists receive years of extra schooling beyond four-year dental school; they work to restore optimal function and appearance of missing teeth, or those that are broken down, decayed, infected or shifted. Want to learn more about the specialty of prosthodontics and what type of treatment a prosthodonist provides? We have the answers you’re looking for, from prosthodontist Ronald Haas, DDS, of Deer Park, NY.

1) What does a prosthodontist do?

“A prosthodontist is a dentist who is a specialist in restoring weak, broken or decayed teeth and replacing missing teeth with healthy, comfortable and cosmetically pleasing teeth replacements,” Dr. Haas explains.

More specifically, “A prosthodontist specializes in the use of crowns, permanent bridgesdentures and implant bridges to restore a healthy bite and smile, and to treat patients who present (us) with especially difficult-to-solve dental problems.”

2) What are specific conditions for which a patient would see a prosthodontist?

Haas identifies people who have “many, most or all of their teeth are broken down, decayed, infected, missing or shifted,” as those who would benefit from seeing a prosthodontist. He explains, “This is mainly because these people will usually suffer with a bad bite, poor chewing ability, general pain or discomfort, and they become embarrassed or hesitate to smile.”

He says other common problems that are referred to a prosthodontist to treat include: severely worn teeth from a combination of teeth grinding or acidy drinks, painful dentures, cosmetic treatment for adults and especially children and patients who will be treated with dental implants to replace many or all of their teeth.

Many dentists will refer their patients who are suffering with consistent problems despite being treated with a crown, bridge, denture or implant.

In short, according to Haas, “You will know you should see a prosthodontist when these conditions are affecting your life negatively on a daily basis. Proper diagnosis and treatment by a specialist will restore your teeth and bite to a healthy, comfortable and cosmetically pleasing condition.”

 3) What type of specialized training does a prosthodontist have?

“Prosthodontists receive two or three years of additional training after four years of college and four years of dental school,” according to Haas.

Additional training for prosthodontists is earned through a hospital- or university-based program approved and accredited by the American Dental Association, Haas says. “The training includes reviews of the literature, lectures, treatment of patients and laboratory experience in making many different types of life-enhancing and cosmetically pleasing restorations.”

Adds Haas, “A prosthodontist is the skilled architect who can restore optimum function and appearance to your smile.”

4) Is a prosthodontist the same as a cosmetic dentist?

“A cosmetic dentist is any dentist who wishes to call themselves one because there is no recognized specialty in this field,” asserts Haas. “Many dentists take additional courses studying cosmetic techniques,” he says, but those can include even brief courses, such as a weekend class.

“Some of the other titles that dentists may use to market themselves are reconstructive dentist, implantologist, neuromuscular dentist, sleep dentist, etc.” Haas clarifies: “These titles are not recognized by dental schools, state dental boards, or the American Dental Association.”

“Patients should be careful not to choose their dentist based on these titles, as they can mean the dentist has much experience and training or very little.”  On the other hand, says Haas, “A prosthodontist is trained to deliver the latest smile-enhancing procedures such as veneers, laminates, all-porcelain crowns and onlays and whitening.”

A visit to a prosthodontist will help determine the best cosmetic procedures that will provide you with a beautiful, healthy smile.

5) How does a prosthodontist differ from an orthodontist?

According to Haas, “An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in straightening teeth that are shifted or crooked. A prosthodontist can treat mildly shifted or crooked teeth with smile-enhancing porcelain crowns, veneers, or cosmetic contouring, as needed. A visit to a prosthodontist can determine the best way to treat shifted or crooked teeth.”

“A consultation with a specialist can help determine your best course of action. Says Haas, “A prosthodontist will refer you to see an orthodontist if that appears to be the best option.”

6) Why would my general dentist or orthodontist refer me to a prosthodontist?

“Many general dentists and orthodontists refer patients to our office when they have difficult-to-solve dental problems. A difficult dental problem is one caused by having teeth that are broken, decayed, infected, missing or shifted,” Haas reiterates.

Issues such as these can often cause significant bite changes, bite problems and poor cosmetic appearance, explains Haas. “Prosthodontists are uniquely qualified to help solve these problems.”

7) What other services does a prosthodontist provide?

In addition to the services mentioned above, says Haas, “We also provide [cosmetic procedures] for people who have less-involved problems but wish their treatment to be performed by a specialist with the knowledge and experience to provide exceptional results.”

8) Do most people need the services of a prosthodontist at some point?

“Most people can benefit from seeking the care of a prosthodontist for teeth problems that occur over time. Many of these people have challenging problems that are best treated by a specialist with advanced knowledge and experience.”

Other patients with more routine needs prefer to see a specialist for their more basic needs, Haas says. He explains, “This situation is similar to people seeking medical treatment. People with minor heart problems may seek treatment by their primary care doctor. Others feel more comfortable seeing a cardiologist.  [It’s] the same for dental needs. However, with advances in dentistry, less people are in need of extensive rehabilitation, but those that do would be well advised to see a prosthodontist.”