At first bite, a prosthodontist and a periodontist may seem like the same profession. Both professionals are licensed dentists who have received additional specialty training. The periodontist primarily focuses on underlying oral disease while the prosthodontist primarily focuses on restoring the appearance of the patient’s teeth.
Dentures and Implants and Bridges, Oh My!
A prosthodontist is a licensed dentist who has received an additional three to four years of training specializing in the cosmetic restoration and replacement of teeth. Her training includes the art of color and shade matching, the planning of treatment for implants, the restoration of temporomandibular joint dysfunction and other similar issues. These treatments result in better functionality and a more attractive smile. The prosthodontist’s additional training is acquired through a hospital- or university-based program accredited by the American Dental Association.
Sinking Your Teeth into It
A periodontist is also a licensed dentist with an additional three years of American Dental Association-accredited training, and who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gum, or periodontal, disease. While she may place implants, like a prosthodontist, the periodontist really focuses her practice on treating patients with severe gum disease or those with a complex medical/dental history. These specialists perform highly-detailed procedures, such as root planing, surface debridement and oral surgery.
Similar, But Not Quite the Same
There can be overlapping areas of treatment between a prosthodontist and a periodontist, most notably implants, so the differences between the professions may seem subtle. However, the periodontist diagnoses and treats underlying dental, and possibly medical, issues affecting the gums and teeth of a patient, while the prosthodontist uses her skills to repair and replace damaged or missing teeth with implants, bridges or dentures. The prosthodontist works closely with the patient’s periodontist, and one of her goals is to restore the patient’s teeth in a cosmetically appealing manner by, for example, understanding the dynamics of a healthy smile.
Chewing it Over
After completing dental school, aspiring dental specialists may wish additional training. If you find that you have a propensity for and interest in the medical side of dentistry, you may find a career as a periodontist more satisfying. However, if your interests and skills lean toward the artistic direction, you may find yourself drawn to prosthodontics. In 2010, the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dentists’ median annual salary was in the $147,000 per year range, with excellent projected job growth of 21 percent through 2020.
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