Traditional methods to replace a missing tooth or teeth include the fabrication of a bridge. To replace a missing tooth with a bridge, at least one tooth on either side of the space created by the missing tooth must be prepared for a crown. Then a false tooth is joined to the crowns, and the entire structure is cemented to the prepared teeth. The patient cannot remove the bridge, and special aids are available to keep it clean.
Only 3 percent of the population knows what prosthodontists are and what they do. As with other dentists, prosthodontists complete four years of dental school, obtaining a D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree. Like other dental specialists, prosthodontists receive additional training: three years of formal education in an American Dental Association certified program, which leads to a specialty certificate, or a master's degree (M.S.), or both. Upon completing the advanced training, prosthodontists become board eligible and may take an examination requiring two years or more to complete, to become board certified. Because it is a very challenging and demanding examination, only 30 percent of all prosthodontists become board certified.
Today’s dental implants are typically made of titanium and may be parallel-sided or tapered and may or may not have threads. These fixtures are placed into the jawbone and allowed to heal until they are "integrated" into the bone. Dental implants may be used to replace one, many or all of a patient’s teeth.
When a patient no longer has any natural teeth, complete dentures are the traditional method to restore function and appearance. Many patients experience difficulty wearing conventional dentures because of poor stability and decreased chewing function. The use of dental implants to improve the stability and retention of dentures is becoming quite popular.
Porcelain veneers are used to modify the shape and color of teeth. Veneers are thin shells of porcelain that are etched and then bonded to the enamel of the teeth. Tooth preparation is necessary to avoid over bulking of the tooth, but it is limited to the enamel and usually involves only a few surfaces of the tooth.