Your smile says a lot about who you are. It conveys openness, sincerity, intelligence, and more importantly, confidence. Are you a confident, happy person, filled with life and joy and unafraid to flash a smile at any time? Or, do you find yourself holding back just a little? Do you have smile anxiety?
For many Americans, whether as a result of decades of bad habits, genetics, or unhappy circumstance, showing their teeth can be cause for embarrassment. They simply don’t want to smile, even in moments of genuine laughter and joy because they feel self-conscious about the way their smile looks to the world. They smile tentatively. They hold back. And, as a result, they miss out on the sweet moments in life. Luckily, many cosmetic dental concerns can be corrected. Even those with severe dental deficiencies can get a smile makeover with the help of a highly-trained dental specialist known as a prosthodontist.
ALL ON FOUR
This patient received all-on-4 zygomatic implants, which are placed in the patient's cheekbones. This enabled us to give her fixed teeth. We fitted her temporary teeth in one day and installed her permanent teeth several months later after her implants had sufficiently healed.
A prosthodontist is, quite simply, a dentist who has completed three more years of intense post-graduate training, beyond the already rigorous education of the typical dentist and been awarded board certification by the American Board of Prosthodontists (ABP). In the United States, aspiring prosthodontists must become experts in not only the basic sciences, but also head and neck anatomy, biomedical sciences, biomaterial sciences, implant surgery, function of occlusion (bite), TMJ, treatment planning, full-mouth reconstruction, and esthetics. It’s no surprise then that while there are over 170,000 general dentists in the United States, there are only 3,200 prosthodontists.
Why Would I need a Prosthodontist?
The American Dental Association (ADA) does not recognize “cosmetic surgery” as a dental specialty. Cosmetic or esthetic, dentistry falls under the purview of prosthodontics. In other words, general dentists are typically unqualified to provide smile makeovers, All On Four Dental Implants, and other complex, full-mouth reconstruction procedures. A hospital patient would not be comfortable allowing an ER nurse, no matter how experienced, to perform open-heart surgery. Likewise, those seeking complex cosmetic dentistry should avoid general dental practitioners and find an experienced prosthodontist instead.
Five Questions to Ask Your Prosthodontist
1. What will my smile look like?
Make sure you know exactly how the procedure, or procedures, will affect not only your teeth but also your facial structure and jawline. Ask for picture evidence of the results of previous patients. A good prosthodontist will provide you with charts, before-after pictures, and even projected renderings of the anticipated results.
2. What additional follow-up treatments or care will I need?
Many procedures will require follow-up treatments or even other operations. While some procedures such as the All-On-Four Dental Implants can be completed in a single day, be sure you are familiar with every aspect of your post-procedure care. Good prosthodontists will explain every aspect of the procedure from pre-procedure all the way to post-procedure care and maintenance.
3. What are the long-term costs and longevity of the treatment?
Always factor in the financial costs of any given procedure before committing to them. A good prosthodontist will give you expert advice and recommendations for a course of action according to your budget. Ask about long-term care costs that might come with repeat visits and treatment longevity so that you have a good idea of what your dental investment will cost.
4. What are the potential negative aspects of the procedure in question?
Cosmetic procedures like the Smile Makeover can drastically change your life for the better, providing a permanent solution to otherwise intractable dental problems. However, as with any complex medical procedure, there are risks. Your prosthodontist should carefully review with you the pros and cons of each method so that you can make a well-informed, confident decision.
5. What are your credentials?
Remember, a cosmetic dentist is NOT a prosthodontist. Becoming a board-certified prosthodontist takes many years of training, education, and experience. Fellows of the American College of Prosthodontists (FACP) are required to have a dental degree, have completed three years of prosthodontic specialty training, and be board certified by the ABP.
I highly encourage you to do your homework and review patient and peer testimonials, case studies, and published articles authored by the prosthodontist that lend support to their experience and knowledge.
Remember this is your smile. Never agree to undergo treatment without full confidence in your prosthodontist.