How to Become a Prosthodontist

October 11, 2023


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 05/05/23

If you’re sure you want to join the dentistry field but want to explore your options within it, read on to learn more about how to become a prosthodontist. 

Every year, almost 300,000 people a year receive dental implants. Whether it be to replace missing or broken teeth or to correct insecurities, cosmetic dentistry has increased in popularity over the last few decades.

The professionals that perform these procedures are called prosthodontists, and they are highly trained in their craft! If this form of dentistry piques your interest, and you want to know more about how to pursue it, this guide has got you covered! 

In it, we’ll delve deeper into the procedures these professionals perform, the typical prosthodontist education, and career outlook!

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What Is a Prosthodontist 

To give you the best understanding of what a prosthodontist is, let’s break down the word itself. The first part of this term comes from the Latin word “prosthesis” which refers to an addition and the second part “ordont” means tooth

When put together, this word means the addition of teeth, which is what prosthodontists do! They replace or restore missing teeth to assist in the preservation of a healthy and beautiful smile. 

In order to complete this general task, prosthodontists perform the following specific procedures:

  • Placing dental bridges and crowns or removable dentures
  • Replacing missing parts of the mouth or jaw
  • Treating head and neck deformities
  • Assessing the condition of gums to determine the best size and shape of artificial teeth or devices
  • Fixing jaw problems such as Temporomandibular Joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Addressing sleep or snoring disorders
  • Repairing injuries to the mouth, teeth, and jaw
  • Removing cancerous growths
  • Performing oral cancer reconstruction surgery for cosmetic reasons
  • Diagnosing dental disease
  • Helping repair patients’ ability to speak properly

The process of assessing patients and ensuring they’re given the best treatment usually takes several weeks to years, depending on the severity of the issue! Patients are commonly referred to prosthodontists through their dentists.

These professionals often work in dental clinics but can also work in cosmetic clinics or hospitals.

Steps to Becoming a Prosthodontist

After learning more about what these dental specialists do, you may be curious about how to join the field and gain the skills required to perform such complex procedures. Along this line of inquiry, you may ask: “how long does it take to become a prosthodontist?”

If you plan on pursuing this career, ensure you’re in it for the long haul. Becoming a prosthodontist will take a minimum of 11 years and three post-secondary degrees and certificates!

Here are the exact steps involved in the process:

Step One: Obtain a Relevant Undergraduate Degree

The first prerequisite to join any accredited dental school is the completion of an undergraduate degree. The majority of aspiring dental students choose science-centered degrees because you’ll be required to complete science coursework prior to your enrollment to dental school.

However, you can essentially choose any major as long as you complete the necessary prerequisites. In fact, there have been many successful dental applicants with humanities degrees! 

Your GPA will be one of the main components of your dental school application. Considering your specific program will determine your skill set and preparation for the field, you should aim to get into a high-ranking school. Top-ranking dental schools require high GPAs, so it’s essential you maintain good grades throughout your degree.

Step Two: Craft a Strong Application

Another essential part of your dental school application will be your resume. This resume will include any extracurriculars, awards, and honors you received during your post-secondary career. 

It’s generally recommended that students participate in some passion projects that aren’t directly related to dentistry but still demonstrate talent, and some clinical or medical activities, such as research, shadowing, or work experience in a dental clinic.

You should also write a compelling personal statement and choose your recommenders carefully. Dental schools will prefer your letters of recommendation come from science professors, so it’s crucial you form connections with these professors early into each school year!

Step Three: Write the DAT

The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is used to assess students’ potential to succeed in dental school and the field in general. As such, you’ll want to ace this exam to impress the admissions committee!

It's recommended students begin preparing for and attempting to write the DAT in their sophomore or junior year in case they need to rewrite it to reach their target score. 

There will be several unfamiliar sections on this exam that require adequate practice and time to master. One of the hardest parts of the DAT is the perceptual ability test. It requires students to interpret two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional objects—a skill that rarely comes naturally to anyone!

Step Four: Go to Dental School

After completing the lengthy application process, you should be rewarded with acceptance letters to your top choices! Consider your dental school carefully by assessing its curriculum, practical experience, and faculty. 

Students have the choice of completing either a DMD or DDS, both of which take four years to complete. You’ll be expected to maintain high marks in this degree as well to get into a good prosthodontist residency program. 

Ensure you also maintain strong connections with your dental school mentors, as you will have to submit letters of recommendation to your residency programs! To impress the judges, your letters should paint you as a standout student that is dedicated to the field.

Step Five: Pass the INBDE 

Once you’ve graduated from your DMD or DDS, you’ve officially completed the necessary training to become a general dentist. In order to gain the licensing to put this knowledge to practice, you must pass the Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE). 

Step Six: Complete a Prosthodontist Residency

You must complete a residency if you want to specialize in the dentistry field. By step six, you will be able to perform general dentistry but will not have the expertise to perform prosthodontic procedures.

You will gain this expertise through a three-year residency program. Since these residency programs are highly competitive, it’s essential you submit stellar applications to your desired programs. 

Step Seven: Become Board Certified

Prosthodontists are also strongly encouraged to become certified with the American Board of Prosthodontists by completing a rigorous four-part exam.

While some prosthodontists complete these certifications after working in the field for a few years, becoming board certified early into your career can help you stand out to employers and confirm your qualifications to new or interested patients.

Prosthodontist Salary

As with any potential career, you should have a realistic understanding of the demand and salary you can expect in the near future. Fortunately, a career in prosthodontics is lucrative and steadily increasing in demand!

The average prosthodontist makes around $208,000 a year. However, your pay potential can increase depending on your location and level of experience. Prosthodontists that work in private practices tend to make significantly more than this median.

FAQs: How to Become a Prosthodontist

While we hope we’ve answered your main questions about how to become a prosthodontist, there’s a chance we missed some! In case we did, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this profession.

1. How Long Does it Take to Become a Prosthodontist?

It will take at least 11 years to become a prosthodontist: four years to complete an undergraduate degree, four years to complete dental school, and three years to complete a prosthodontist residency.

2. What Are the Educational Requirements to Become a Prosthodontist?

Students must hold a DMD or DDS and complete a prosthodontic residency to join this career. Some prosthodontists hold master’s or PhD degrees in dental studies to enhance their knowledge in the subject, but it is not required.

3. What Is the Difference Between a Dentist and Prosthodontist?

Prosthodontists are dentists. They have gone to dental school and passed their dental certification exams to perform general dentistry. However, they go a step further by completing a three-year residency program in prosthodontics. As such, they are specialists rather than general dentists.

4. Is Being a Prosthodontist Stressful?

Prosthodontists rarely deal with emergencies. The majority of their procedures are elective and cosmetic in nature, meaning they are not under as much pressure or stress as other healthcare providers.

While the career itself may not be stressful, the journey to it will be! You’ll be expected to pursue competitive degrees and certifications throughout. High-ranking dental schools are extremely selective and challenging to excel in, and residency programs are even more competitive! 

5. How Much Do Prosthodontists Make?

Prosthodontists typically make around $208,000 a year, but your salary will vary depending on several factors like location and employment type.

6. Are Prosthodontists the Same as Endodontists?

No, while both prosthodontists and endodontists are dental specialists, they perform different procedures. 

Prosthodontists are largely concerned with providing their patients with replacements or prostheses. Endodontists study and diagnose illness and disease affecting the inside of the teeth or gums. They typically perform repairs rather than replacements.

Final Thoughts

Considering the thousands of patients that require dental restoration or repairment each year, prosthodontists are an essential part of the dentistry field!

While joining this lucrative profession will require over a decade of dedication and hard work, it will ultimately result in a growing and rewarding career! There will literally be beautiful smiles all around!

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