Cosmetic vs. General Dentistry
You may be exploring the possibilities cosmetic dentistry may have for you and the question may arise: what is the difference between general and cosmetic dentists? Which should you choose for your unique needs? It’s important to educate yourself on the differences between the two types of dentistry before choosing what best fits your needs. Both types of dentists perform the same requirements of consulting with patients, communicating options and needs, and carrying out the agreed upon procedures for you. With that said, there are major variances between the two types of oral care takers.
The major difference between cosmetic and general dentists at first glance, is that general dentists focus more on oral health care and referrals to specialists for other needs, while cosmetic dentists focus more on procedures which improve shape and appearance while maintaining the overall health of the mouth. This could be compared to a general doctor versus a plastic surgeon.
A general dentists’ primary concern is basic and preventive oral care. General dentists will perform cleanings, routine check-ups, and treatment of cavities, root canals, damaged or injured teeth and other mouth and jaw health concerns. A cosmetic dentist, however, looks primarily at the aesthetic needs a patient may have. A cosmetic dentist will go beyond basic repair or replacement of a missing or damaged tooth and will consider the complete aesthetic nature of the repair. To that end, they may utilize crowns, whitening, implants, veneers, or dentures to result in a smile that it is not only functional but also makes the entire smile and/or jawline look new and fresh.
Wondering if the cost of the dentistry work is comparable? For dental procedures which both general and cosmetic dentists perform, such as replacing a broken tooth or filling a cavity, the cost can be similar. There are some situations, however, where there is a difference in price for the same procedure. This is due to the fact that cosmetic dentists focus on aesthetics or appearance, so they may use materials that are slightly more expensive but which will look better. For example, for a filling, a general dentist may use amalgam while a cosmetic dentist may use composite material which better matches the existing tooth color. Composite fillings are a bit more expensive, resulting in a more costly filling but one which is more aesthetically pleasing.
A general dentist will typically:
- Assess patients needs and conditions
- Order X-rays
- Apply treatments to teeth such as filling cavities
- Discuss preventative care and oral hygiene techniques with patients
- Treat gum disease
- Screen for oral cancer
- Maintain and update patient records
General dentists are required to have doctoral degrees (DDM: Doctor of Dental Medicine) and complete the state licensing requirements.
A cosmetic dentist will usually:
- Evaluate a patient’s condition and aesthetic needs
- Develop and communicate a treatment plan accordingly
- Repair damaged teeth
- Replace missing or damaged teeth with implants, veneers, crowns, etc.
- Dental bonding, teeth whitening and bone grafting
- Provide pre and post operative care
- Educate patients about how to care for implants or dental devices
Cosmetic dentists are required to have their doctoral degree (DDM or DDS: Doctor of Dental Surgery), state licensing, and a postgraduate program in cosmetic, aesthetic, or restorative dentistry.
When determining which type of dentist will best suit your needs, it’s important to decide your main goal and dental needs. Overall, both general and cosmetic dentists can perform any basic necessary oral care and hygiene needs you may have. If you are searching for general dental health care help, a general dentist may be the best fit for you. However, if you are looking specifically to have a better looking, more aesthetically pleasing smile, you would probably be best served to visit a cosmetic dentist.