No, really. There are plenty of general dentists that love doing cosmetic dental work. There might even be dentists that limit their practice to esthetic cases. However, a dentist cannot be officially designated a “cosmetic dentist” or “cosmetic specialist.”

Dentistry actually has 9 recognized specialties.

  • Public Health Dentistry: this field of dentistry is involved in the assessment of dental health needs and improving the dental health of populations rather than individuals.
  • Endodontics: deals with the tooth pulp and the tissues surrounding the root of a tooth. They perform root canal treatments and retreatments.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: these dentists treat a wide spectrum of diseases, injuries and defects in the head, neck, face, jaws and the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. Oral surgeons remove injured or diseased teeth, treat oral cancers and deal with temporomandibular joint problems.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: is the study and radiologic interpretation of oral and maxillofacial diseases. They are trained in reading and interpreting x-rays of the head and neck.
  • Orthodontics: focuses on the straightening of teeth and modification of midface and mandibular growth.
  • Prosthodontics: specializes in replacing missing teeth using crowns, bridges, implants and removable prostheses.
  • Pediatric Dentistry: specializes in treating dental diseases in children and adolescents.
  • Periodontics: specializes in treating the supporting tissues of the teeth such as the gums and the bone that surrounds the teeth.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: specializes in the diagnosis of less common dental and head and neck diseases.

General dentists are allowed to perform procedures within any of the specialties, if they choose to. However, as of right now a dentist cannot “specialize” in cosmetic dentistry. Kind of confusing, right? Let me explain a little more.

Let’s say you go to a general dentist with a toothache. The dentist performs some tests, takes an x-ray and determines that your tooth has an infection and will need a root canal. Many general dentists perform root canal treatments in their office while others might prefer to refer root canal procedures to a specialist called an endodontist. Some dentists will choose to do some, but not all of these procedures themselves for  different reasons. Perhaps they don’t enjoy doing them, they don’t find them time efficient or perhaps the tooth is particularly challenging. The endodontist has specialized training in root canal treatments. By choosing to specialize in root canals the endodontist doesn’t spend their time placing crowns or making dentures. They get very good at a very specialized procedure.

So you may wonder why there isn’t a cosmetic dentistry specialty.  My best answer is that cosmetic treatments are often “interdisciplinary” in nature. I’ve treated cosmetic cases where we first sent the patient to the orthodontist, to straighten their teeth and make room for a dental implant. Then sent them to an oral surgeon to place a dental implant. Finally, we whitened the patient’s teeth and restored the implant with a beautiful porcelain crown. The goal of all of this treatment was cosmetic improvement, but it involved a team of specialists organized by me, the general dentist. Some general dentists may have the skills required to do all of the different phases I’ve described. But for now, there’s no cosmetic dentistry specialty.

How can you know if your dentist has skill with cosmetic dentistry? The very best way to know is ask them! Dentists who do a lot of cosmetic dentistry usually take photos of their work. Not only is this a great way to show other patients what cosmetic dentistry can offer them but it helps them see what they can do differently or better for the next time. Dentists who enjoy doing cosmetic cases usually take a lot of continuing education classes in order to learn new and cutting edge techniques. Be sure to ask your dentist if they’ve taken courses on cosmetic dentistry.

And remember, cosmetic dentistry isn’t limited to super expensive veneer cases! Orthodontics (braces) and whitening can give a really dramatic result with little or no “drilling.” Replacing stained fillings or replacing silver fillings can lighten the color of your smile, too. Dentures can make a huge cosmetic difference for some people even though most people don’t really think of dentures as “cosmetic dentistry.”

Would you like to improve your smile? I’d be happy to take a look. I don’t charge anything for a cosmetic consultation. I can take a look and give you some ideas about what we could do to improve your smile. I’m also always available for second opinions at no charge! We place beautiful cosmetic restorations every day at Mead Family Dental, but remember…I’m not a “cosmetic dentist!”

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