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Career Profile: Prosthodontist - Mary Walker

Career Profile: Prosthodontist - Mary Walker

Mary Walker, D.D.S., Ph.D., Prosthodontist and Associate Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry

National Institutes of Health: Office of Science Education

I chose this career because…

I chose to become a prosthodontist because the profession combines my interest in science with my interest in caring for patients.

Dental School Decision

The first part of my career was focused in the field of microbiology. I worked in medical and research laboratories; however, I wanted more direct contact with patients. While working on a dentally-related research project, the project director encouraged me to apply to dental school. I was good with my hands, and had a strong aptitude in science. Both skills are necessary to pursue a career in dentistry.


• Bachelor of Science, Medical Technology, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND
• Master of Science, Microbiology, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND
• Doctor of Dental Surgery, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry, Lincoln, NE
• Specialty Certificate, Prosthodontics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, Kansas City, MO
• Doctor of Philosophy, Oral Biology (Biomaterials), University of Missouri-Kansas City

More on Dentistry

Median Salary: $136,960
Min. Education: Doctorate
Related Careers: Dental Hygienist, Dental Laboratory Technician

My typical workday involves…

My typical workday varies depending on the responsibilities of the day, which include clinical care, teaching and research components.

Teaching in the Clinic

• I teach third- and fourth-year dental students in the dental clinic. With direct patient care, I instruct students on how to complete the intra-oral examination, read radiographs (x-rays), and make a diagnosis and treatment plan.

• During prosthodontic treatments, I teach dental students about restoring or replacing teeth, and in some cases parts of the jaws using crowns, bridges, dental implants, or dentures.

• In addition, I teach second-year students in pre-clinical prosthodontic courses that include lecture and laboratory components. We cover how to prepare teeth, make impressions, and perform prosthodontic restorations to replace damaged or missing tooth structure.

Teaching and Researching: Dental Biomaterials

Other aspects of my work include teaching and research associated with dental biomaterials.

• Teaching – I teach a biomaterials course in which dental students learn about the properties and application of many types of dental biomaterials, such as tooth-colored composite filling materials, porcelain crowns and veneers, and titanium implants.

• Researching – In my biomaterials research, I use mechanical testers, light microscopes, electron microscope, and other computer-based testing equipment to look at the properties and problems associated with dental biomaterials. For example, some of the investigations have looked at orthodontic wires, ceramic (tooth-colored) orthodontic brackets, and impression materials. Results from these investigations are published in dental journals. These research results may aide other practicing dentists in their selection of dental materials and ultimately, patient care.

What I like best/least about my work…

What I like best about my work is interacting with both patients and dental students. I also enjoy the variety of responsibilities in my workday. My position allows me to use my prosthodontic training for clinical teaching and patient care. In addition, treatment complications that arise can lead to ideas for further biomaterials-related research projects.

What I like least about my work is sometimes not being able to provide the most ideal care for a patient due to their financial limitations.

My career goals are…

My career goals are to expand my research to include patient-based clinical research using my background in prosthodontics and biomaterials.

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