When Dr. Igor Chikunov chose prosthodontics as a way to combine his interest in health care with his love of craftsmanship, he never thought that he would be fabricating prosthetic eyes, ears, noses, and jaws.
Dr. Chikunov, a clinical assistant professor of prosthodontics, is one of approximately only 400 maxillofacial prosthodontists in the United States. These specialists are trained to prosthetically correct maxillofacial defects in cancer survivors, people with congenital defects, and trauma patients, and to fabricate conventional intraoral prostheses such as crowns, bridges, veneers, and dentures.
After earning a DDS degree from Kharkov State Medical University Dental School in his native Ukraine, Dr. Chikunov enrolled at NYUCD, earning a DDS degree in 2002 and a certificate in prosthodontics in 2005. Dr. Laurence Brecht, NYUCD's director of maxillofacial prosthodontics, encouraged Dr. Chikunov to pursue maxillofacial specialty training, and Dr. Chikunov subsequently completed an additional year as a fellow in maxillofacial prosthodontics at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.
Today, Dr. Chikunov divides his time between a private group practice in Manhattan and NYUCD, where he trains prosthodontics residents and serves as co-director of Clinical Removable Prosthodontics for the DDS program. Several of his colleagues, including Dr. Mijin Choi and Dr. Kenneth Kurtz, are also trained in maxillofacial prosthodontics. Three of Dr. Chikunov's residents have gone on to careers in maxillofacial prosthodontics.
One of Dr. Chikunov's most challenging cases involved crafting a jaw prosthesis, a prosthetic eye, and facial tissue for a cancer survivor who had undergone surgery to remove a facial tumor. "I made impressions of the mouth, nasal cavity and face, fabricated the intraoral prosthesis, sculpted a facial prosthesis made of silicon to replace missing skin and the missing eye, selected the eye color and matched the prosthesis to the patient's skin tone," explains Dr. Chikunov. "The facial and intraoral prostheses were connected and retained by strong magnets.
"Maxillofacial prosthodontics is rewarding and challenging work that can make a big difference in the lives of people who sometimes cannot even face the trauma of leaving home to do simple chores," says Dr. Chikunov. Adds Dr. Leila Jahangiri, clinical associate professor and chair of the Department of Prosthodontics, "Dr. Chikunov's career demonstrates that when you come to NYUCD, you can develop in ways that you never imagined."