How to Become a Prosthodontist: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 10, 2020

Learn how to become a prosthodontist. Research the job description as well as the education and licensing requirements to learn how to start a career in prosthodontics.

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Should I Become a Prosthodontist?

Prosthodontics is a dental specialty focused on restoring damaged or missing teeth with artificial devices, including dentures, dental implants, bridges, crowns, and veneers. Additionally, prosthodontists treat facial abnormalities caused by injuries, birth defects, and diseases. Patients may get a more attractive appearance and improved ability to talk and eat due to the efforts of these dentists. Special gear must be worn to protect patients and dentists from infectious disease.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Doctoral degree plus residency
Degree Fields Dentistry, prosthodontics
Licensure and Certification Licensure required in all states for dentists; some states require a license to practice a dental specialty; the American Board of Prosthodontics (ABP) awards voluntary certification to qualified applicants
Key Skills Manual dexterity; proficiency in communications and strong attention to detail; familiarity with dental and imaging management software; ability to use a wide range of dental pliers, gauges, impression trays and other dental instruments
Salary $176,540 (2018 median for prosthodontists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Individuals wishing to specialize in prosthodontics must graduate from dental school plus complete a post-graduate residency program in prosthodontics. Licensing is required for dentists in all states. Some states mandate a specialized license to practice a dental specialty. Prosthodontists may voluntarily seek board certification in their specialty through the American Board of Prosthodontics (ABP). Prosthodontists should have manual dexterity, strong attention to detail, and good communications skills. They should also have familiarity with dental and imaging management software as well as the ability to use a wide range of dental pliers, gauges, impression trays, and other dental instruments. According to 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for prosthodontists was $176,540 per year.

Steps to Become a Prosthodontist

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

While dental schools don't require incoming students to have studied any particular major, students will stand a better chance of getting admitted if they major in a science, such as biology. Aspiring dental students must take certain undergraduate science classes that are required by the dental school they plan on attending. These pre-dental courses include biology, physics, psychology, and English.

Step 2: Take the Dental Admission Test

Students must complete the Dental Admission Test (DAT) at least one year before applying to dental school. The Dental Admission Test consists of four multiple-choice tests covering natural sciences, reading comprehension, perceptual skills, and quantitative reasoning. The American Dental Association (ADA) oversees this test, which is one of the factors that dental schools look at when choosing which students to admit.

Step 3: Graduate from Dental School

Dental school is a 4-year program where students train to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. Coursework may include craniofacial biology, dental anatomy, and epidemiology as well as dental materials, mouth disease diagnosis, and pharmacology. Students in dental school gain clinical experience by working on patients under the auspices of experienced dentists.

Step 4: Get Licensed

Each state requires a license for dentists. All dentists must pass both parts of the National Board Dental Examinations. Licensing requirements depend upon the individual states, but typically include graduating from an accredited dental program and successfully completing written and clinical tests. In some states, dentists wanting to specialize in a dentistry sub-field must obtain a license for the specialty.

Step 5: Complete Residency Training

A 3-year, post-doctoral residency program in prosthodontics gives students hands-on experience in practices including performing oral restoration and dental implant treatment as well as caring for surgical patients. Prosthodontics residency programs hone clinical and technical skills while emphasizing diagnostics, anatomy, biostatistics, pathology, oncology, oral prosthetic devices, and oral biology. In addition to clinical practice, residency programs may include lectures and research requirements.

Step 6: Obtain Certification

Certification is not necessary for prosthodontists, but many choose to seek this professional distinction through the American Board of Prosthodontics. Applicants must pass a four-part examination, including one written test and three oral tests. Prosthodontists must stay updated on developments in the field in order to get re-certified every eight years. Voluntary certifications often impress potential employers and may help aspiring prosthodontists with job prospects and career advancement.

After earning a bachelor's degree in a science, aspiring prosthodontists must complete dental school and obtain a professional license followed by completion of a 3-year residency program in prosthodontics.

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