No, a prosthodontist is not a type of prehistoric dinosaur, it is a highly skilled individual who creates many types of dentures and other cosmetic denture devices, and if you need help with tooth replacement then you need to know how to find one. Let's break this $10.00 word down into something easier to understand.
A prosthodontist is a dental professional who specializes in making devices to replace or restore missing teeth. Such a device is actually called a prosthesis, though we commonly refer to them as "dentures". So prosthesis is the root word for prosthodontist. Since prosthodontist is such a mouthful of a word (no pun intended) these professionals are often simply referred to as denturists. It's far easier to link the word denturist with one who prepares dentures. There, that's much simpler isn't it?
But prosthodontists are much more than just denture makers. A prosthodontist/denturist may also be consulted about the course of treatment for oral cancer patients. While tumors in the mouth can interfere with eating properly, their removal can present further complications. Teeth can now begin to shift into the open space left by the tumor's removal, and there may be a large area that now needs to be filled in. A prothodontist can plan and execute a course of action for reconstruction of the affected area.
So, what's the difference between a dentist and a denturist? Some professionals maintain that prosthodontists/denturists have actually been around longer. Both dental professionals attend dental school, but a denturists/prosthodontist receives two to three extra years of training to perfect the art of creating lifelike dentures, and other cosmetic denture devices such as porcelain veneers.
While all dentists learn to construct dentures, this work is so labor intensive and time consuming, that a dentist wouldn't have much time for other dental work such as repairing cavities, performing root canals, and fitting crowns and bridges. So many dentists will refer denture work out to a qualified denturist/prosthodontist who is uniquely prepared to create the highest quality dentures available.
While you can open up any phone book and pick a random prosthodonist/denturist, you won't really have any idea of the quality of their work. Perhaps a better way to find a prosthodontist/denturist is through a referral from your family dentist. Your dentist is already familiar with a number of prosthodontist/denturists in the field, and may have a particular favorite who he refers most of his denture work to due to the quality of the dentures manufactured.