Prosthodontics is a field of dentistry that emphasizes dental prostheses. From replacing the crowns on your molars to creating the dentures your grandparents wear, prosthodontists spend their careers treating patients with oral conditions to improve their comfort, appearance, and, most importantly, health.
A prosthodontist position can be a rewarding career. Missing teeth and other oral issues are not ailments to be taken lightly; such maladies have broader repercussions that affect patients’ overall wellbeing. Successful prosthodontists are able to make a big difference in the lives of patients.
Prosthodontics is also one of the highest-paying fields in the United States. While the educational requirements are rigorous, you’ll be compensated for it. If you wish to know how to become a prosthodontist, here are some details to consider:
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What Does a Prosthodontist Do?
“The dental specialty pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance of oral function, comfort, appearance and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral maxillofacial tissues using biocompatible substitutes.”
If you were to lose or chip a tooth, for instance, you would go to a prosthodontist for a solution.
Other kinds of dentists can perform certain types of rehabilitative treatments, but prosthodontists are specialists that handle severe and wide-ranging cases. According to the American College of Prosthodontists — an organization that enforces field standards — some of a prosthodontist’s specific duties include:
- Dental implant care;
- Restoring and replacing missing teeth;
- Tending to tooth wear and attrition;
- Performing full-mouth reconstructions;
- Diagnosing and treating temporomandibular joint disorders;
- Assisting with snoring and sleep disorders;
- Treating individuals with cleft palates;
- Treating defects from trauma or congenital diseases.
Prosthodontists also tend to patients’ aesthetic concerns, such as coloring and contouring. What a prosthodontist does is wide-ranging, but it usually entails some form of dental reconstruction and replacement, and they often work alongside other dental professionals.
Average Prosthodontist Salary
Prosthodontist is one of the country’s top-paying jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual wage for prosthodontists was $191,400 in 2018. What you earn, however, depends on a variety of factors, such as education, location, and how long you have been practicing.
The median annual wage for prosthodontists in 2018 was $176,540, but the bottom 10% and 25% earned $103,240 and $118,390, respectively. Prosthodontists belonging to the 75th and 90th percentiles earned around $208,000 per year or more.
Florida and Virginia were the highest-paying states for prosthodontists in 2018. In Florida, prosthodontists earned a mean hourly wage of $104.52, which equates to an average annual salary of $217,410 based on a 2,080-hour work year. Prosthodontists in Virginia earned an average wage of $91.51 per hour, which is approximately $190,030 per year.
Prosthodontist Education, Licenses, Certifications, and Training
Like any career in the medical field, the educational requirements to become a prosthodontist are intense. First, you will need to obtain a bachelor’s degree. The exact major is not specific, but U.S. News & World Report notes that you will need to complete the prerequisite courses for dental school, which include general chemistry, biology, physics, English, and organic chemistry. You may decide to obtain a master’s degree, but one is not required to enter dental school, where you will ultimately pursue a doctorate degree.
Take the Dental Admission Test one year or more before applying for dental school, where you will study to earn your doctorate of either Dental Medicine or Dental Surgery. This stage of the process can take three to five years, depending on the program, and entails classes such as craniofacial biology and pharmacology.
You must obtain a license to practice dentistry in the U.S., and you may need a state-specific license to specialize in a particular field. Medical school can be expensive, so educate yourself regarding the details of FAFSA and whether student loans are right for you.
Once you graduate, you will need to complete a three-year, ADA-accredited residency training program to gain practical experience. This step is the last official one for becoming a prosthodontist, but it is in your best interest to get certified through The American Board of Prosthodontists. Obtaining a certification from the ABP entails a four-part examination that you must retake every eight years to prove you are keeping up-to-date with this ever-growing profession (and it helps to impress potential employers).
Prosthodontist Job Outlook
According to the American Dental Association, 3,500 prosthodontists and prosthodontic residents were practicing in 2017, which is low compared to the 199,495 practicing general dentists in 2018. Fortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates an employment growth rate of 7.3% between 2018 and 2028.
The American College of Prosthodontists notes that over 120 million Americans are missing at least one tooth, and 36 million do not have any teeth at all. The organization expects this number to grow over the next 20 years. Prosthodontists are necessary to help an expanding and aging population with tooth loss and other maladies.
Should I Become a Prosthodontist?
Becoming a prosthodontist is an excellent career option for some, but it’s not for everyone. You will need the right personality for it: the profession entails a great deal of patience and understanding when it comes to creating treatment plans for patients and exploring their options. Similar to other medical careers, becoming a prosthodontist also requires manual dexterity to conduct successful operations.
As for career development, U.S. News & World Report notes that opportunities for advancement are average, though prosthodontics is still one of the highest-paying jobs in the U.S. You will face an above-average stress level while managing a schedule with below-average flexibility. Education is expensive, too, and you will need to be sure that you’re able to relieve yourself of student loan debt sooner rather than later.
Prosthodontics is a high-paying field, but it requires arduous training. If you have the patience and eagerness to help people suffering from harmful abnormalities in their teeth, and you’re willing to undergo the necessary education, becoming a prosthodontist may be right for you.
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