Reading Between The 'Letters' For The Right Specialist

Here is the catcher: A dentist who provides ‘prosthodontic’ services is not necessarily a prosthodontist!

A patient recently came to me about replacing her missing tooth with a dental implant. She told me that through internet search, she had found a prosthdontist who she is considering for restoration of the implant. When she told me the name, I informed her that I know the doctor but he is a general dentist, not a prosthodontist. She insisted that he is according to his website! So we both took a look and realized something very interesting or perhaps unintentionally misleading! The Google search results and the website both say that the doctor is a ‘prosthodontics and implant dentist’! She made the assumption that he is a prosthodontist which of course was not true!

Lets first define a couple of terms:
The term ‘prosthodontics‘ simply refers to the fabrication of crowns, bridges, or dentures to restore teeth or replace them when missing. So by definition every restorative dentist provides ‘prosthodontics’  – nothing special there. The term ‘Implant dentist’ refers to any dentist who provides implant treatment for replacement of missing teeth. There are two types of implant dentists: A trained surgeon such as an oral surgeon or periodontist who performs the surgical placement of the implant and the restorative dentist who restores the dental implants with appropriate prosthetics (crowns, bridges, or dentures). And in-turn there are two types of restorative dentists: general dentists or prosthodontists.

To help you find a dentist who is actually a prosthodontist, ask the following questions:

  • “Are you a trained prosthodontist?”: Prosthodontists receive extended post-graduate training in accredited programs. If the doctor says, they offer prosthodontics, that simply means he or she is a restorative dentist, but not necessarily a prosthodontist.
  • “Where did you completed training program?”: Accredited prosthodontics training programs are only offered at dental schools. A one year program or weekend courses do not qualify.
  • Ask your surgeon about the dentist’s credentials: As members of the community, they would know and can help you get on the right path.

My father always told me to never assume anything and always read between the lines.
Now a good reason to read between the letters- It makes a huge difference.