How Can I Become a Prosthodontist?

Explore the career requirements for prosthodontists. Get the facts about the education, licensure and certification requirements, job duties and salary potential to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Dental Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Prosthodontist?

A prosthodontist is a dentist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of tooth and jaw conditions. They perform restorative work on patients' teeth and jaws for both functional and aesthetic purposes. For instance, their services can include tooth replacements, gap bonding, teeth bleaching, treating temporomandibular joint syndrome and cosmetic reconstruction after traumatic injury or oral cancer. They work in dentist offices in conjunction with other oral care professionals, such as general dentists, hygienists and technicians.

The table below provides information on this career:

Education Required Bachelor's degree, dental school, postgraduate program in prosthodontics
Education Field of Study No specific undergraduate major required, coursework in sciences recommended, prosthodontics specialization in dentistry
Key Responsibilities Devise treatment plans, work to replace missing teeth & dental structures
License/Certification State license and board certification through the American Board of Prosthodontics
Job Growth (2014-24) 18%*
Median Salary (2015) $119,740*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Prosthodontists Do?

Prosthodontics is a dental specialty in tooth replacement and restoration. The procedures in this field are designed to correct deformities of the face and jaw and restore proper speech and jaw function. Prosthodontics is one of nine specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.

As a prosthodontist, you may work within a large dental practice or open your own specialized practice. You will devise treatment plans and work with other dentists to replace missing teeth and dental structures for either cosmetic or functional reasons. This process is done through the creation and implantation of crowns, bridges and other prosthetic dental devices. Some of the conditions you may treat include Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), sleep apnea and oral cancer.

Subspecialties in prosthodontics include esthetic dentistry, dentures and maxillofacial prosthodontics, dealing specifically with rehabilitation of head, neck and facial abnormalities. Research and teaching are also career options for prosthodontists.

What Education and Training Will I Need?

To pursue a career in this specialty, you need to complete a bachelor's degree and enroll in dental school. After dental school, you need to complete a postgraduate program in prosthodontics.

To gain admission to dental school after college, you must take and pass the Dental Admission Test, which measures academic aptitude for dental programs. Many dental schools require you to apply via the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service. No specific undergraduate major is required, but there is prerequisite coursework, particularly in the sciences.

After completion of a 4-year dental school program, you can apply to a postgraduate program in prosthodontics to gain advanced training in the specialty. Postgraduate programs generally take three years to complete. Following postgraduate work, you may test to become a Board Certified Prosthodontist through the American Board of Prosthodontics. You will also need to obtain a state license in order to practice.

What Is the Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes oral and maxillofacial surgeons, including prosthodontists, on its list of the 20 highest-paying occupations based on median annual earnings (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, 710 prosthodontists were employed in 2015. The projected increase in employment from 2014 to 2024 is 18%, which amounts to 100 new jobs in the field.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of becoming a prosthodontist, you could become a general dentist, or you could pursue a different specialization in the field. For instance, you may complete a postgraduate program to become an orthodontist, endodontist or oral pathologist. Alternatively, if you are passionate about patient care and treating diseases and injuries, you could pursue a career as a physician. This would require you to complete a four-year medical degree, a residency in a particular field of interest and sometimes a fellowship in a subspecialty area.

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