The Difference Between Cosmetic and General Dentistry
Cosmetic dentistry focuses on enhancing the patient’s facial appearance while general dentistry is concerned with the prevention and treatment of dental disorders. However, some cosmetic procedures can have oral health benefits and you may find that your general dentist carries out a range of cosmetic procedures. Confused? Read on...
What Do General Dentists Do?
General dentists treat problems associated with discomfort. Typically, general dentistry restorative procedures include:
- Root canal work.
Some general dentists will also offer treatment for gingivitis (gum inflammation) and the more serious condition of periodontitis (gum disease).
Preventive care at a general dentistry practice will consist of routine dental exams, professional cleanings, and oral cancer screening. A general dentist may also fit mouthguards and sealants and provide fluoride treatments.
Some general dentists also perform cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening.
What Do Cosmetic Dentists Do?
Being primarily concerned with how your teeth look, a cosmetic dentist is also likely to offer teeth whitening in addition to:
When General Dentistry and Cosmetic Dentistry Overlap
There are several areas where the line between general dentistry and cosmetic dentistry becomes blurred.
For instance, dental veneers are cosmetic because they mask cracked or stained teeth but could be considered a restorative treatment as they protect the surface of a tooth from damage.
Tooth bonding is considered a cosmetic procedure but the resin can be applied to a cavity to repair a decayed tooth.
Dentures enhance appearance by filling gaps in your mouth. At the same time, they address problems such as biting difficulties and slurred speech.
The replacement teeth of dental bridges will restore your smile but also enable a correct bite function and prevent remaining teeth from shifting out of place.
An alternative to dentures and bridges, dental implants can transform a patient’s life in terms of both functionality and aesthetics.
Extractions can be another area where general and cosmetic dentistry overlap. An extraction is a restorative procedure, but if you have a decayed tooth taken out, it will change the appearance of your smile. You may then choose to replace your missing tooth with a dental implant, which can be considered a cosmetic solution.
Cosmetic Dentistry is an Art as Well as a Science
In restoring your smile and the general appearance of your teeth, cosmetic dentistry is considered as much an art as a science.
Although cosmetic procedures are not technically considered a recognized dental specialism, cosmetic dentists undergo extensive training in the concepts of smile design.
While the American Dental Association (ADA) does not officially recognize cosmetic dentistry as a specialty, dentists who focus on the more artistic aspects of dental care are considered cosmetic dentists by their patients and other dentists.
The only specialty classed by the American Dental Association as a cosmetic procedure is prosthodontics – the replacement of damaged or lost teeth.
Should I See a General Dentist or a Cosmetic Dentist?
General dentistry focuses on preventing and treating oral ailments while cosmetic dentistry deals with the overall aesthetic appearance of teeth. Knowing the difference between the two can help you work out which type of dentist is right for you.
Both cosmetic and general dentists have the skills to perform a variety of complex or simple dental procedures.
In most cases, patients suspecting dental health problems will visit a general dentist first. Those looking to improve their appearance are more likely to seek the services of a cosmetic dentist.
Both general and cosmetic dentists will have earned either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) degree.
In general terms, a cosmetic dentist is a restorative dentist who has gone on to study the art of enhancing a patient’s facial appearance.
Why Cosmetic Dentistry is Likely to Cost More
One big difference between cosmetic and general dentistry is cost.
More than half of people in the U.S. have dental insurance but, according to the National Association of Dental Plans, cosmetic work such as veneers, crowns, and dental bonding aren’t usually covered.
Because restorative dentistry is necessary on health grounds, insurance will typically cover some or all of these procedures. However, dental insurance providers consider cosmetic dentistry as elective and, therefore, outside the scope of insurance, although cosmetic work that also provides a functional benefit – such as restoring tooth structure – may be covered at 50 percent.
Dental insurance companies consider treatment restorative if it’s:
- Used for reasons other than aesthetics, such as replacing missing teeth.
- Medically essential because of disease, decay, or injury.
A procedure is deemed elective and cosmetic if:
- It’s solely for improving the aesthetic aspect of a patient’s smile.
- A tooth or tissue is not impaired.
- There’s no medical imperative for altering a tooth.
Cosmetic dentists may charge more than general dentists in certain instances. For example, if you need a filling, a cosmetic dentist – being concerned about the appearance of a patient’s smile – will tend to favor composite materials to match your tooth’s color, and composite fillings are more expensive than amalgam fillings.
Where General Dentistry Meets Cosmetic Dentistry
Some dental practices specialize in family dentistry, offering numerous services as a “one-stop-shop” for the oral healthcare needs of your entire family. These general, restorative, family dental offices may also provide cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening, bonding and crowns, and bridges.