After earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree from an accredited dental school, general dentists can choose to pursue additional training in specialties ranging from pediatric dentistry to dental public health. As the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) explains, post-doctorate study in a dental specialty generally requires 24-36 months of schooling and hands-on training. This type of additional education is not attractive to every dental school graduate. Indeed, according to the ADEA, 80% of people who earn their DDS or DMD practice general or family dentistry and do not specialize. Of those that do, prosthodontics is the least common field of study.
Which begs the question: why aren’t more people drawn to prosthodontics? The money is certainly there. As Forbes reports, prosthodontists earn an average salary of $130,820 (although the top practitioners earn closer to $180K).
Dr. Zelby believes the answer has more to do with interest than salary. As with many highly specialized occupations, excelling in prosthodontics requires a high level of personal interest combined with a great deal of natural skill and steady hands. Dr. Zelby recalls the utter fascination he felt during his first year in dental school watching the senior students create models for their final projects. “To a layperson, making a set of dentures might seem like no more than attaching plastic teeth to plastic gums,” says Dr. Zelby. In reality, ensuring that a patient can speak, smile, and chew normally with dentures (or bridgework or dental implants) requires precision treatment planning and an eye for facial aesthetics.
For people with the passion and dedication to pursue prosthodontics, the rewards go far beyond income. Many p
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