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Maxillofacial prosthetics (MFP) is a subspecialty of prosthodontics that focuses on the management of complex craniofacial prosthetic rehabilitation. With advancements in treatment techniques and technology, the MFP specialist's roles have also evolved. This presentation describes who today's maxillofacial prosthodontists are, what they do, and how they care for the special population of patients with complex and unique needs.
Maxillofacial prosthetics (MFP) is a subfield within the prosthodontic specialty, and prosthetics are used to rehabilitate composite oral and maxillofacial defects derived from developmental and/or acquired etiologies.
Basic prosthodontic principles are applied within a wider and more complex landscape that covers extraoral, intraoral, oropharyngeal, and velopharyngeal applications.
MFP is essential to survivorship, which broadly describes the experiences an individual with cancer has throughout its phases (diagnosis, treatment, and remission) and people, like friends and family, who support the individual in the process.
Expansion of the definition of survivorship to include those born with significant maxillofacial defects, benign but maladaptive tumor processes, and acquired facial trauma is appropriate given the multifaceted and complex nature of care that these conditions and patients share (Fig. 1).
In the evolution of the field, MFP-trained specialists provide a multitude of services, are key players in multidisciplinary teams, and are based in different clinical settings.
Currently practicing MFP specialists fulfill roles within the spectrum of care modalities. For head and neck cancer, the MFP provider provides adjunctive dental oncologic oversight like providing oral positioning devices used in oral radiotherapy or prechemoradiation therapy dental clearance, in addition to actual prosthetic rehabilitation. This particularly exemplifies the extensive and adaptive knowledge and clinical skills required of the maxillofacial prosthodontist external to the prosthetic repertoire.
Improvements in craniofacial and maxillofacial reconstruction have only broadened the possibilities for prosthetic rehabilitation. Just as technology has advanced capabilities of care within the health care industry, digital integration in MFP has enabled improved predictability and quality of treatment outcomes.
Robotic surgery and virtual surgical planning have improved treatment techniques for resection and reconstruction while decreasing morbidity. With these advancements, not only did the need for MFP care increase, but also the incorporation of digital technology into MFP practice itself.
These processes provide the opportunity to not only improve the efficiency and effectiveness of provider-driven procedures, but also enhance the experience of the patient undergoing treatment (Fig. 2).
The complex clinical attributes of the MFP specialty are often placed at the forefront; however, the maxillofacial prosthodontist’s most significant contribution is to be an advocate for the patient. Today’s maxillofacial prosthodontist supports not only physical and functional factors through prosthetic rehabilitation, but also the emotional, mental, and psychosocial aspects of a patient’s life throughout the care process.
The author thanks the consultants, trainees, dental allied health team, and colleagues in Otolaryngology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Radiation Oncology, Medical Oncology, and the Anatomic Modeling Laboratory for their support and collaboration on patient cases within this presentation.