Prosthodontist or Orthodontist: Which is Which?

Prosthodontist, orthodontist, what’s the difference? Aren’t they all just fancy types of dentists? Well, technically yes, just like surgeons, OB/GYNs and pediatricians are all medical doctors. These two dental specialists are often confused with each other since they sometimes work on the same type of dental problems. They both graduate from dental school and they both spend the next three to five years learning their specialties. It’s the way they deal with their patients’ dental issues that set them apart from each other.

Which to Choose?

Your family dentist can help you to keep your teeth white and your gums healthy. With luck, that’s all the dental care you’ll ever need. But if something happens and you need more specialized care, it’s best to take your concerns to specialists who have been trained to do more advanced dental care.

Prosthodontists and orthodontists are sometimes seen as two sides of the same dental coin. It’s been said that orthodontists treat problem teeth that are there, while prosthodontists treat problem teeth that aren’t there anymore. That’s a simplistic description, but a good beginning to understanding what these two specialists do. 


A dentist who specializes in prosthodontics focuses her attention on replacing missing teeth. This is to restore normal dental function. People with missing teeth will have a hard time eating, communicating and other issues. They often also suffer from self-esteem issues, being ashamed of the way they look and losing self-confidence because of it.

Prosthodontists can replace missing teeth with caps, crowns, bridges, or full sets of dentures. For patients who prefer a more permanent solution, these dentists can also do dental implants for a realistic replacement of one tooth or a full set. This is true of patients who have lost their teeth due to traumatic accidents such as a car accident or a sports injury, as well as those who have lost them due to periodontal disease.

Prosthodontists also specialize in rebuilding other parts of the mouth, often performing reconstructive surgery to parts of the mouth that have been damaged by cleft palate, cancer, TMJ or other jaw problems.


An orthodontist is a dentist who performs procedures that correct the alignment of teeth and change the position of the facial structure, teeth and jaws. The most common way orthodontists do this is by using braces. Patients with misaligned teeth often have problems chewing, biting and speaking, and can even suffer from constant pain that affects their entire life. In the most severe cases, orthodontists perform procedures to correct problematic or misaligned jaws.

Orthodontists concentrate exclusively on issues related to the alignment of the teeth. This can include misaligned teeth, crowded teeth, underbites and overbites, crossbites, spaces between the teeth and jaw problems such as TMJ. 

How Do I Choose?

The first time you realize you need some type of specialty dental treatment, you’ll likely be in the chair in your family dentist’s office. In fact, unless he tells you otherwise, you may not ever know that you need extra treatment at all. Once you know what the problem is, your family dentist will likely advise you on what type of specialist you need for your particular dental problems.

When you’re ready to tackle those big dental procedures, only the most skilled Houston prosthodontists will do. Maple Leaf Dental can turn back time, replacing your damaged teeth with artificial ones that even your mother won’t notice. Call us at 281-497-5558 or email us to get started. Your smile won’t wait forever!

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