All dentists are required to complete a very similar and regimented education pathway to obtain a general dentist license. Dentists are required to successfully complete and obtain a Bachelor’s degree from a four-year college/university. The acceptance requirements of most dental schools is so high, most dentists have to graduate from college in the top 10% of their class. Not all Bachelor’s degrees obtained by dentists are directly related to biology or health care. However, all dentists are required to complete, at the highest level, pre-requisite classes required by dental schools to be considered for acceptance. Dentists must take a Dental Admissions Test and score high enough on the test to be considered a good candidate for dental school. If they are considered a good candidate by the dental schools to which they apply they will be given an opportunity to accept a seat in a dental school’s program.

Most dental schools require a minimum of four years of intense education and training. This training includes heavy loads of in-class education regarding biology, physiology, pathology, oral health, diagnosis, and treatment planning. Usually this is what makes up the lion’s share of the dental school’s first 2 years of training. The first two years also includes extensive pre-clinic hands on training of dental treatment techniques and procedures. In order to advance to the clinical training or patient care training a dentist will have to successfully complete and pass very demanding national board exams that strive to test and ensure the dentist is competent in their knowledge to care for the oral health of a real person. They must also successfully complete very precise and difficult competency examinations required by the dental school they are attending to are designed to prove the dental student is ready to actually perform the procedures on real people. The last two years of most dentals schools is high dedicated to performing basic dental procedures on live patients under direct supervision of dental school faculty. As dental school comes to a completion a dentist must then pass another national board exam design to show competency in their ability to successfully practice dentistry with real people. Also, they successfully complete a clinical skills board exam in which they demonstrate their ability to successfully treat real people.

After completed the dental school requirements and national board exams a dentist is now ready to obtain a dental license from the state in which they want to live and practice dentistry. They must then apply to the state dental licensing board and prove they are able to safely practice dentistry within the state to which they are applying. Once the dental license is earned, they can then practice dentistry on the general public of that state.

All dentists are then required and have committed to practice dentistry safely and respectfully. In hopes to keep dentists up to date regarding the advances in the dental field, some states require dentists to obtain a minimum amount of Continuing Education (learning after becoming a dentist) hours in order to renew their dental licenses.

What makes a Prosthodontist’s training different then a general dentist or any other dental specialist?

In order to become a dental specialist in the field of prosthodontics a dentist must be accepted to an accredited advanced P\prosthodontics specialty residency program and successfully complete that program. All Prosthodontic residency programs are a minimum of three years of advanced training after successful completion of dental school and obtaining a dental license. In most residency programs a significant amount of their training in the first year is advanced education in anatomy, biochemistry, dental materials, dental sciences, dental pathology, and dental techniques. An additional important part of their training is an in-depth review of the dental scientific research/literature. This review of the scientific literature happens for all three years of the residency program. It reviews the scientific findings that support all the oral health treatments dentistry can provide to a patient. It is through this scientific review that ensures a prosthodontist becomes an expert in the reconstructive processes available to help successfully treat a patient’s oral health. Another significant aspect of a prosthodontist’s training is their requirement to make most of all the dental prosthetics they provide to their patients. They successfully complete advanced dental prostheses fabrication courses and throughout their residency actually fabricate the majority of dental prostheses made for their patients. They have to develop a high understanding of the engineering processes and principles of dental materials and prosthetics to ensure longevity and success of them in one’s mouth. The most important part of their training is actual patient care. Clinically they see the most complicated dental and oral health situations and learn how to properly diagnose, treatment plan, and complete their care. They learn and gain superior experience on the best methods of providing dental prostheses (crowns, veneers, implants, dentures, etc.) successfully restore one’s smile and function again. A Prosthodontic residency program is one of the most demanding and difficult specialty programs in dentistry. It requires a prosthodontist to obtain an ability and skill set that is high above the requirements of dental school.

Many advanced Prosthodontic residency programs also require their residents to complete a master’s degree related to an area of prosthodontics. This process requires a resident to be the expert in that aspect of prosthodontics by reading all the scientific literature related to that area, successfully complete a scientific research project, successfully write a master’s thesis on their research, and then successfully defend the research to a panel of experts.

Once a prosthodontist has successfully completed their residency program, they can obtain a board certification via a national organization called the American College of Prosthodontics. It is not necessary to do so, but is another feather to put in one’s hat in the field of Prosthodontics.

The training a prosthodontist receives designates them to be one of the best resources in the dental field when it comes to oral health reconstruction.

by Dr. Michael Lynn Gurney