Thinking about a career in anaplastology? There’s a lot to learn. Aspiring practitioners need to be computer savvy in 3-D technology. They should commit to a master’s program. Most importantly, they have to be passionate about details.
Positions exist mainly on rehabilitation teams at larger hospitals, cancer centers or universities.
Experienced anaplastologists also may develop private practices. Here, too, they’re part of a team of surgeons, audiologists, therapists, laboratory technicians and prosthodontists, specialists in tooth restoration.
“Anaplastologists come from a plethora of educational and clinical backgrounds, and utilize skills in medical art, medicine, dentistry, dental technology and engineering,” said Suzanne Verma, 28, an anaplastologist in the Center for Maxillofacial (jaws and face) Prosthetics at Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas. She received a master’s degree in biomedical visualization, with an emphasis in facial prosthetics, from the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago. It’s one of the few anaplastology-oriented programs.
For those who are dedicated, this field offers an immense outlet for creativity while delivering competent and compassionate care, said Ms. Haggerty, director of Custom Prosthetic Ltd. in Seattle.
Salaries average around $35,000 to $55,000 annually, Ms. Haggerty estimated. Ocularists (specialists in eye prostheses) and prosthodontists usually earn more. “If earning potential is important, don’t apply. If you are weighing this against accounting, finance, law, etc., you probably won’t be happy,” Ms. Haggerty cautioned. “My business generates about $230K a year and is still growing, but that’s after 20 years. This is somewhat unusual for just doing facial prostheses. There are very few of us who have independent practices apart from another professional or related services.”
Not only does prosthesis serve an aesthetic purpose, but it also protects sensitive structures from the elements. Today’s anaplastologists have a wealth of resources to accomplish their work. Since silicone debuted in the 1960s, it revolutionized the industry. Many patients cast aside prostheses made of latex rubber, cellulose, acrylic or polyvinyl carbonate. The new material is better tolerated, variably soft and translucent much like skin. “Silicone is colored to match the patient’s various skin tones, including small details such as blood vessels and freckles,” said Baylor College of Dentistry’s Ms. Verma. “Each prosthesis is unique in its design, makeup and method of retention.” Bone-anchored implants initially were used in dental applications but later adapted for artificial ears and other devices. These titanium implants are surgically placed in the patient’s skull and eventually employed to retain an external prosthesis via sophisticated clips or magnets, Ms. Haggerty explained.
The latest innovations in computer technology save time during rehabilitation and facilitate accuracy. Using data from a CT scan, an anaplastologist can create a customized implant from a computer model without performing invasive procedures on the patient. “The custom-fabricated implant will fit the site, in most cases, like a piece of a puzzle,” Ms. Haggerty said. But there are limitations that both patient and anaplastologist must accept. “A well-designed and fabricated prosthesis may go unnoticed but may be detectable under closer observation,” she said. “It is not designed to fool loved ones or those who intimately know the wearer.” Beyond that, “even with proper care, the prosthesis will have a limited life span, may fade, discolor or tear and will need periodic replacement.”
Minnesota Future Work adds that Century Community and Technical College offers several career programs in this specialty area. They include the Prosthetic Practitioner program prepares individuals for entry into the field of Prosthetics at the practitioner level. A prosthetic practitioner (Prosthetist) provides care for patients with partial or total absence of the limbs by designing, fabricating, and fitting devices known as prostheses. Didactic and laboratory coursework is combined with patient interaction in the areas of lower limb and upper limb. Each of these areas contains instruction in anatomy, pathology, kinesiology, pathomechanics, and prosthetic design principles. Specialty courses covering gait analysis, biomechanics, muscle testing and material science are also included in the program.