What is a Prosthesis?

Last updated: March 12, 2024

What is a dental prosthesis?

A dental prosthesis, often referred to simply as a prosthesis, is an artificial device used to replace missing teeth or surrounding tissues. These prostheses are custom-made to fit the unique shape and structure of an individual's mouth, helping to restore the function and appearance of their smile.

There are several types of dental prostheses available, each serving a different purpose:

  1. Dentures: These are removable appliances that replace multiple missing teeth. They can be full dentures (replacing all teeth in the upper or lower jaw) or partial dentures (replacing multiple missing teeth while preserving existing natural teeth).

  2. Dental Implants: Dental implants are a more permanent solution for replacing missing teeth. A small titanium post is surgically implanted into the jawbone, providing a stable foundation for a crown, bridge, or denture to be attached.

  3. Dental Bridges: Bridges are used to fill in gaps created by one or more missing teeth. They consist of artificial teeth (pontics) that are attached to adjacent natural teeth or dental implants for support.

  4. Implant-Supported Dentures: These are dentures that are attached to dental implants for increased stability and functionality. This option is often preferred by individuals who have difficulty with traditional removable dentures.

The process of getting a dental prosthesis typically involves multiple steps. Initially, your dentist will conduct a thorough examination of your mouth, take impressions, and create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Depending on the type of prosthesis chosen, additional appointments may be necessary for fittings, adjustments, and final placement.

Caring for a dental prosthesis is essential to ensure its longevity and your oral health. Proper cleaning and maintenance, as advised by your dentist or hygienist, can help prevent issues such as decay, gum disease, and damage to the prosthesis itself.

In terms of cost, dental insurance coverage for prostheses can vary depending on the type of plan you have. Some insurance plans may cover a portion of the cost, while others may offer more comprehensive coverage. It is important to check with your insurance provider to understand your specific coverage and any out-of-pocket expenses you may incur.

Overall, a dental prosthesis can significantly improve your quality of life by restoring your ability to eat, speak, and smile with confidence. If you are considering a prosthesis, consult with your dental provider to explore the options available and determine the best solution for your individual needs.

How is a dental prosthesis different from a dental implant?

A dental prosthesis, often simply referred to as a prosthesis, is a dental appliance that is custom-made to replace missing teeth. It is designed to restore both the function and aesthetics of your smile. Unlike a dental implant, which is a titanium post that is surgically implanted into the jawbone to support a crown, bridge, or denture, a dental prosthesis does not require any surgical intervention.

There are various types of dental prostheses available to address different levels of tooth loss and individual patient needs. The most common types of dental prostheses include:

  1. Dental Crown: A dental crown is a cap that is placed over a damaged or decayed tooth to restore its shape, size, strength, and appearance.

  2. Dental Bridge: A dental bridge is used to replace one or more missing teeth. It consists of artificial teeth that are held in place by crowns attached to the teeth on either side of the gap.

  3. Dentures: Dentures are removable appliances that are used to replace multiple missing teeth. They can be full dentures, which replace all the teeth in the upper or lower jaw, or partial dentures, which replace only a few missing teeth and are attached to the remaining natural teeth.

  4. Implant-Supported Prosthesis: This type of prosthesis is supported by dental implants that are surgically placed into the jawbone. It provides a stable and durable solution for patients with significant tooth loss.

The process of getting a dental prosthesis made and fitted typically involves several steps. First, your dentist will conduct a comprehensive examination of your teeth and gums to determine the best treatment plan for you. This may involve taking X-rays and impressions of your teeth.

Next, the dentist will prepare the teeth that will support the prosthesis by removing a small amount of enamel to ensure a proper fit. For crowns and bridges, the dentist will take impressions of your teeth to create a custom prosthesis that matches the color, shape, and size of your natural teeth.

Once the prosthesis is ready, your dentist will carefully fit it into your mouth, making any necessary adjustments to ensure comfort and functionality. Your dentist will also provide instructions on how to care for and clean your prosthesis to maintain its longevity.

In terms of cost, dental insurance coverage for a prosthesis may vary depending on your specific insurance plan. Some plans may cover a portion of the cost, while others may not cover prosthesis treatment at all. It's important to check with your insurance provider to understand your coverage and any out-of-pocket expenses you may incur.

Overall, dental prostheses are an effective and common solution for replacing missing teeth and restoring your smile's function and appearance. Your dentist can help you determine the best type of prosthesis for your individual needs and guide you through the process of getting one made and fitted.

Are there different types of dental prostheses available?

There are several different types of dental prostheses available to address various dental issues and restore oral function and aesthetics. Here are some common types of dental prostheses:

  1. Dental Crowns: Crowns are used to cover and protect damaged or weakened teeth. They are custom-made to match the color, shape, and size of the natural teeth, restoring strength and appearance.

  2. Dental Bridges: Bridges are used to fill in gaps created by missing teeth. They consist of artificial teeth (pontics) that are held in place by crowns attached to the adjacent natural teeth.

  3. Dentures: Dentures are removable appliances used to replace missing teeth and surrounding tissues. They can be full dentures (replacing all teeth in a jaw) or partial dentures (replacing one or a few missing teeth).

  4. Dental Implants: Implants are titanium posts surgically placed in the jawbone to replace missing tooth roots. They provide a stable foundation for artificial teeth, such as crowns, bridges, or dentures.

  5. Implant-Supported Prostheses: These prostheses combine the stability of dental implants with the functionality of bridges or dentures. They offer improved support and stability compared to traditional removable prostheses.

  6. Inlays and Onlays: These are indirect restorations used to repair moderately damaged or decayed teeth. Inlays fit within the center of a tooth's biting surface, while onlays cover a larger portion of the tooth.

  7. Veneers: Veneers are thin shells made of porcelain or composite resin that are bonded to the front surface of teeth to improve their appearance. They can correct issues like discoloration, chips, or gaps.

  8. Nightguards and Mouthguards: These custom-made dental prostheses are designed to protect teeth from damage caused by clenching, grinding (bruxism), or sports-related impact.

  9. Orthodontic Appliances: Appliances like braces, aligners, or retainers are used to straighten teeth, correct bite issues, and improve overall oral health.

  10. Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Appliances: These prostheses help with conditions affecting the jaw joint, alleviating symptoms like pain, clicking, or limited jaw movement.

Each type of dental prosthesis serves a specific purpose and is tailored to meet individual dental needs. Your dentist will evaluate your oral health, discuss treatment options, and recommend the most suitable prosthesis to restore your smile and oral function.

How long does it take to get a dental prosthesis made and fitted?

Getting a dental prosthesis made and fitted is a process that typically involves several steps and may vary depending on the type of prosthesis needed. The timeline for completing this process can also vary from patient to patient, but generally, it can take a few weeks to a few months to have a dental prosthesis made and fitted.

The first step in getting a dental prosthesis is usually an initial consultation with a dentist or prosthodontist. During this consultation, the dental professional will examine your oral health, discuss your specific needs and concerns, and determine the type of prosthesis that would be most suitable for you. X-rays and impressions of your teeth may also be taken to aid in the design and creation of the prosthesis.

Once the type of prosthesis is decided upon, the next step is to prepare your mouth for the fitting. This may involve procedures such as tooth extraction, gum shaping, or other dental work to ensure that the prosthesis will fit properly and securely in your mouth. This preparatory work may take a few appointments and can vary in duration depending on the complexity of the case.

After your mouth is prepared, the next step is the actual fabrication of the prosthesis. This process is usually done in a dental laboratory by skilled technicians who will craft the prosthesis based on the specifications provided by your dentist. The fabrication process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the type of prosthesis being made.

Once the prosthesis is ready, you will return to your dentist for the fitting. During the fitting appointment, the dentist will ensure that the prosthesis fits correctly, is comfortable to wear, and functions properly. Adjustments may be made at this time to ensure a proper fit and alignment with your natural teeth.

Overall, the process of getting a dental prosthesis made and fitted requires patience and cooperation between you, your dental professional, and the dental laboratory. It's important to follow all instructions given to you by your dentist and to attend all scheduled appointments to ensure that the prosthesis fits and functions as intended.

Will having a dental prosthesis affect how I eat or speak?

Having a dental prosthesis can indeed have an impact on how you eat and speak. The adjustment period varies from person to person, but it is common to experience some challenges initially.

When it comes to eating with a dental prosthesis, it may take some time to get used to chewing food comfortably. At first, stick to softer foods and gradually introduce harder textures as you become more accustomed to your prosthesis. Be cautious with extremely sticky or tough foods that may dislodge or damage the prosthesis. Cutting your food into smaller pieces and chewing slowly can also help with the transition.

Speaking with a dental prosthesis may also require some practice. Some individuals find that certain sounds are affected initially, causing speech to sound different. Practicing speaking aloud, reading out loud, and enunciating clearly can help improve speech clarity over time. It is essential to be patient with yourself during this adjustment period, as your mouth muscles need time to adapt to the presence of the prosthesis.

Properly caring for your dental prosthesis is crucial for maintaining its functionality and longevity. Regular cleaning is essential to prevent bacteria build-up and maintain oral hygiene. Brush your prosthesis daily with a soft-bristled brush and non-abrasive toothpaste to remove food particles and plaque. Avoid using harsh or abrasive cleaners that can damage the prosthesis. Additionally, soaking the prosthesis in a denture cleanser or mild soap solution can help remove stubborn stains and disinfect it.

If your dental prosthesis becomes damaged or uncomfortable, do not attempt to repair it yourself. Contact your dentist or prosthodontist immediately for professional assistance. They can assess the issue and make any necessary adjustments or repairs to ensure that your prosthesis fits correctly and functions properly.

Lastly, it is essential to check with your dental insurance provider regarding coverage for dental prostheses. Not all insurance plans provide the same level of coverage, so understanding your policy's limitations and benefits can help you plan for any out-of-pocket expenses associated with obtaining or maintaining your dental prosthesis.

In conclusion, while there may be challenges initially when eating and speaking with a dental prosthesis, with time and practice, most individuals adapt well to the prosthesis. Proper care, regular check-ups with your dental provider, and understanding your insurance coverage are key factors in ensuring a positive experience with your dental prosthesis.

How do I care for and clean my dental prosthesis?

Caring for your dental prosthesis is crucial to maintain its functionality and longevity. Proper care not only ensures the prosthesis lasts a long time but also helps in preventing oral health issues that may arise if the prosthesis is not kept clean. Here are some essential tips on how to care for and clean your dental prosthesis:

  1. Daily Cleaning: Just like natural teeth, dental prostheses need to be cleaned daily to remove food particles and plaque. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush or a special denture brush to gently brush the prosthesis. Avoid using toothpaste as it can be abrasive. Instead, use a mild soap or denture cleaner recommended by your dentist.

  2. Rinse Thoroughly: After every meal, remove your prosthesis and rinse it thoroughly to remove any food particles and debris. This helps in preventing bacterial growth and bad breath.

  3. Soak Overnight: Overnight soaking helps in keeping the prosthesis moist and clean. Use a denture cleaning solution or a mixture of water and vinegar to soak the prosthesis. Make sure to rinse it well before putting it back in your mouth in the morning.

  4. Handle with Care: When cleaning your prosthesis, make sure to handle it carefully. Avoid using hot water as it can warp the prosthesis. Instead, use lukewarm water for cleaning.

  5. Regular Dental Check-ups: Even if you have a dental prosthesis, it’s essential to visit your dentist regularly. Your dentist can check the fit of the prosthesis, clean hard-to-reach areas, and make any necessary adjustments.

  6. Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Do not use bleach or other harsh chemicals to clean your dental prosthesis, as they can damage the material. Stick to mild cleaners and those specifically designed for dentures.

  7. Proper Storage: When you’re not wearing your prosthesis, store it in a denture cleaning solution or plain water. Avoid leaving it to dry out, as this can cause warping.

  8. Replace When Necessary: Over time, dental prostheses may wear down or become loose. If you notice any changes in the fit or if the prosthesis gets damaged, contact your dentist for a replacement.

By following these simple tips and maintaining good oral hygiene, you can keep your dental prosthesis clean, functional, and comfortable. Proper care not only enhances the life of your prosthesis but also contributes to your overall oral health.

Can a dental prosthesis be repaired if it gets damaged?

If your dental prosthesis gets damaged, it is important to address the issue promptly to maintain its functionality and avoid potential complications. Here are some steps you can take if your dental prosthesis needs repair:

  1. Assessment: Start by carefully examining the prosthesis to identify the extent of the damage. Look for cracks, chips, or any loose or broken components.

  2. Avoid DIY Repair: While it may be tempting to try to fix the prosthesis yourself using adhesives or household materials, it is advisable to refrain from DIY repairs. Improper repairs can worsen the damage and may compromise the fit and function of the prosthesis.

  3. Contact Your Dentist: The best course of action is to contact your dentist or prosthodontist as soon as possible. They are trained to assess, repair, or replace dental prostheses effectively. Schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience to have the prosthesis evaluated.

  4. Temporary Solutions: In some cases, your dentist may provide you with a temporary solution to address the immediate issue. This temporary fix can help maintain the functionality of the prosthesis until a more permanent repair or replacement can be made.

  5. Professional Repair: Your dentist will examine the prosthesis and determine the most appropriate repair method based on the extent of the damage. In some cases, a simple repair or adjustment may be sufficient, while in other cases, a new prosthesis may be recommended.

  6. Replacement: If the damage to the prosthesis is extensive and cannot be repaired effectively, your dentist may suggest replacing the prosthesis with a new one. This is important to ensure optimal fit, comfort, and function.

  7. Insurance Coverage: Check with your dental insurance provider to understand the coverage for repairs or replacements of dental prostheses. Some plans may cover a portion of the cost, but it is important to be aware of any limitations or exclusions in your policy.

  8. Preventive Care: To minimize the risk of damage to your dental prosthesis, follow good oral hygiene practices, avoid biting on hard objects, and attend regular dental check-ups. These measures can help prolong the lifespan of your prosthesis and reduce the likelihood of repairs.

By taking prompt action and seeking professional help from your dentist, you can address damage to your dental prosthesis effectively and ensure that your oral health and quality of life are not compromised.

Will my dental insurance cover the cost of getting a dental prosthesis?

Dental insurance coverage can vary widely depending on the type of plan you have and the specific details of your policy. When it comes to dental prostheses, such as dentures or bridges, it's important to understand how dental insurance factors into the cost and coverage.

In general, most dental insurance plans provide coverage for dental prostheses as they are considered essential treatments for oral health. However, the extent of coverage can differ based on the type of plan you have. Some insurance plans may cover a percentage of the cost of the prosthesis, while others may only cover a certain dollar amount. It's essential to review your insurance policy or contact your insurance provider to understand the specifics of your coverage.

When exploring dental insurance coverage for prostheses, consider the following factors:

  1. Pre-authorization: Some dental insurance plans require pre-authorization before proceeding with the prosthesis treatment. This usually involves the dentist submitting a treatment plan to the insurance company for approval.

  2. Coverage limitations: Dental insurance policies may have limitations on the type of prosthesis covered, the frequency of coverage (e.g., every 5 years), or the maximum benefit amount for prosthetic treatment.

  3. Out-of-pocket costs: Even with dental insurance coverage, there may still be out-of-pocket costs for the patient. This could include copayments, deductibles, or expenses exceeding the maximum coverage amount.

  4. In-network providers: Insurance plans often have a network of preferred providers. Visiting an in-network dentist or prosthodontist may result in lower out-of-pocket costs compared to going out-of-network.

  5. Alternative treatment options: If your insurance coverage for a particular prosthesis is limited, it's worth discussing alternative treatment options with your dentist. There may be more cost-effective solutions available that are still covered by insurance.

Before deciding on a dental prosthesis treatment, it's advisable to consult with both your dentist and your insurance provider to fully understand the coverage details and potential out-of-pocket expenses. Being informed about your insurance coverage can help you make informed decisions about your oral health treatment and financial responsibilities.

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