A: A prosthodontist has three years of advanced education in the specialties, which include full mouth reconstruction, implant dentistry, and cosmetic dentistry. A dentist finishes dental school and goes right into practicing general dentistry. So, the key difference is in the extent of their education in addition to the services they specialize in.
Basically, it comes down to this—if you’re wanting to keep up maintenance on your teeth, you see a dentist in DC. You may see a dentist two or three times a year if nothing is out of the ordinary. However, with even the most dedicated oral hygiene regimen, you can have some more serious issues. These issues can lead to the loss of a tooth or even a complete arch. The best solution in these cases would be dental implants—one of the specialties offered by a prosthodontist.
It could be due to an accident, genetics, or failing to address a small issue that has now escalated. Whatever the reason is, when you lose a tooth, dental implants should be your first choice of treatment if feasible. Dental implants prevent jawbone deterioration which can lead to a host of other subsequent problems.
So, with that knowledge in hand, do you visit a dentist in DC, or do you instead seek out a prosthodontist? In the end, the decision you make has to be the one that is best for you in your situation. We do have some advice that we want to offer in good faith and let you do with that what you will.
Breaking Down The Difference Between A Dentist In DC And A Prosthodontist
When you go to the dentist, you may not know the ins and outs of what they do—you just know it’s good for you. So it’s understandable that you may not be familiar with what services a dentist in DC does and doesn’t provide. First, you need to understand the basics of what a dentist does—if they’re only certified for general dentistry. We say that because some dentists are also prosthodontists. Yes, it sounds like a high school word problem—all prosthodontists are dentists but not all dentists are prosthodontists. Let’s break down what the field of dentistry entails so you can have a better understanding of the difference.
Do you like football? Good, then picture your favorite dentist in DC. Now, they would be like the head coach of the team. Their skillset and knowledge are so broad and diverse they can probably provide services a prosthodontist offers. The decision there really lies within the dentist’s comfort level and skillsets. Prosthodontics can be performed by dentists—however, we refer back to football. Sure, the quarterback can probably play wide receiver—but do you really want him to?
Think about it, you have a dedicated wide receiver who all they do is practice running routes and catching the ball. Then you have a QB who all he does is practice play-calling and throwing the ball. Sure, the QB knows enough about the receiver position to play—but who do you trust more? Someone who catches the ball every day, or someone that has only seen the receivers do it?
Yes, a dentist might be able to install implants, but if he has only watched others—that could lead to mistakes. Instead, you want a prosthodontist—someone that has gone through at least three years of advanced education. They have gone through intense hands-on training with all things related to dental implants and oral surgery.
All dentists are required to get a degree in dental surgery or dental medicine to be board certified. However, that doesn’t mean they spend the majority of their time studying new implant tech or methodology. They don’t necessarily perform implant procedures regularly. As with any skill you learn, once you stop using it, you become less proficient at it.
What Does A Dentist In DC Do For Patients?
A general dentist usually will see patients that need routine procedures such as deep cleanings, fillings, and routine checkups. A lot of their work is also delegated to dental assistants, dental hygienists, and other support staff. The services they provide may consist of but are not limited to:
- Routine dental checkups
- Preventative treatment for oral and dental disease
- Diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of common dental or mouth issues
- X-rays and other tests that help evaluate oral health
- Performing less complex surgeries such as extractions
When it comes to more complex issues such as dental implants or full-mouth reconstruction, a prosthodontist is who you want to see. Although they can do everything a dentist can do, they also have another level of specialization—prosthodontics.
What Is Prosthodontics?
We could give you a history lesson of the word and how it originates in Greek—but that won’t really explain it. In a nutshell, prosthodontics deals with advanced care, restoration, and surgical procedures related to teeth. Usually, these are procedures and treatments to correct conditions that weren’t corrected in earlier stages such as tooth decay.
Prosthodontics makes use of advanced procedures such as dental implants, bone grafts, and gum tissue grafts. If a dentist is compared to a general practitioner in the medical field, a prosthodontist would be considered a specialist. They provide more specific diagnoses and then the advanced treatment options they require to correct.
The education required to proficiently practice prosthodontics in DC is more involved than for general dentistry. It requires about three additional years of schooling in a prosthodontics graduate program. When a dental student goes on to specialize in prosthodontics, they end up with a deeper knowledge of dental and oral pathology. This gives them an advantage in diagnosing and treating complex cases where the issue may be underlying.
Prosthodontics also employs advanced and often technically complex surgical procedures that treat serious dental and maxillofacial issues. Some of the procedures a prosthodontic employs may include:
- Mandible surgery for (TMD) Temporomandibular Disorder
- Advanced repair or replacement of missing, damaged, or decaying teeth
- Dental implant surgery or full-mouth reconstruction
- Bone and gum tissue grafts
- Dentures and bridges
- Diagnosis and treatment of bruxism or other TMD related disorders like sleep apnea
Can Any Dentist in DC Perform Dental Implant Surgery?
Technically, a dentist can perform dental implant surgery to restore and improve basic tooth function. However, since most dental implants are also designed to improve dental architecture as well as function, they require advanced design. A dentist is more likely to refer a patient to a prosthodontist to get the patient the best care.
Prosthodontists deal with implants, bone grafts, and advanced procedures every day so their depth of knowledge is greater. They also specialize in advanced cases of gum disease and jawbone issues, both of which intertwine with implant procedures.
What If I Need A Prosthodontist And A Dentist In DC?
Since dentists and prosthodontists both have distinct differences in their level of treatment and offerings, you might assume they don’t cross paths often. However, given how the two are directly related to each other more practices have both on staff.
There has been a gradual shift in many clinics toward offering more of a comprehensive dental solution for patients. Rather than having to go see a dentist, then get a referral for a prosthodontist elsewhere, they handle it all in-house. Most even include cosmetic dentistry and periodontic services as well.
If you need dental implants, veneers, or simply need a checkup in the DC area—you have the benefit of Dr. Nahlah. Not just a board-certified dentist, Dr. Nahlah is also a certified prosthodontist with an impressive resume and educational background including:
- Hospital Privilege at Inova Fairfax Hospital, the only level 1 Trauma Hospital in Northern Virginia
- Diplomate American Board of Prosthodontics
- Certificate in Prosthodontics
- M.S Master of Science in Oral Biology
- CRDTS Central Regional Dental Testing Service
- IV Sedation Certificate
When you visit our offices, you truly have an all-encompassing treatment solution that can handle any dental issue you have in one practice. Dr. Nahlah is enthusiastic about making each patient feel like family. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!