How to choose the best dentist for cosmetic work


When it comes to choosing the best cosmetic dentist, it’s important to understand that while both practicing cosmetic and general dentists are schooled in the same educational materials (and are recognized by the American Dental Association) they don’t always specialize in the same procedures.

While a cosmetic dentist has the same basic training as a general dentist has, what sets them apart is their artistic approach to medical science and the fact that they are recognized separately by the the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentists.

Cosmetic dentists have extensive training in the artistic aspects of dental care and understand the social and culture ties with dental aesthetics. They provide cosmetic treatments which not only lead to better overall dental health but help improve patients self-esteem and comfort while they’re at the dentist office.

Here’s a few tips to make sure you select the best doc for your oral health and the cosmetic dental procedures you need.


Photo of doctor taking picture of patient
Doctor during procedure

Consider the cosmetic dentistry work you need done

Typically, a dental professional will specialize in the general maintenance of the mouth. Cosmetic dentists also often handle general oral health needs, so while they can handle repairing small cavities, repair chipped teeth and missing teeth, as well as address common issues like gum disease, their real value is their ability to create full smile makeovers.

Some of the most common cosmetic procedures include: 

Enamel shaping:  Not happy with your tooth shape? No problem. Cosmetic dentists can use a technique called dental bonding to reshape uneven teeth by filing down or using bonding materials. Of all the cosmetic dental practices, this is a pretty quick fix for greatly improving a patient’s smile by using special, color-matched materials to repair or improve badly damaged or chipped teeth.

Tooth whitening: Almost all general dentistry offices offer teeth whitening services, but a cosmetic dentist often has more extensive whitening agents and color testing to make sure the degree of whitening works best with your complexion and tooth colored preferences.

Gum contouring: If you have an overly “gummy” smile, there’s a cosmetic alternative! Gum reshaping can help fix an uneven gum line by working with a the oral and maxillofacial tissues to create a more aesthetically pleasing tooth and gum shape. A cosmetic dentist can use a special laser or scalpel to remove excess gum tissue and shape the gum line to reveal more of the tooth… and voila! an instant smile makeover.

Dental implants. For those who have struggled with poorly fitted complete dentures or fixed partial dentures (or are missing one or more teeth) a dental implant can help create a more natural-looking, radiant smile. Dental implants are a cosmetic dentistry specialty, but it can be quite intensive. Successful dental implants require multiple steps for attaching artificial teeth to the tooth root anchor in the gum including a process for preparing the gum line for replacement tooth roots. Typically, the implant base material is titanium, which is attached to the jawbone, minimizing the slipping or damage that often accompanies bridgework or removable artificial teeth.

Dental restoration: There are several methods for restoring damaged teeth. Fillings are one of the most popular. These days, amalgam fillings and silver fillings have been traded in for acrylic, porcelain, or composite fillings so they look more like your natural teeth, and are fused to metal to withstand biting pressure. A few other dental restoration methods include:

  • Inlay – This is used when a tooth sports a larger than normal cavity and needs a lot of the structure removed.

  • Onlay – Also known as a three quarter crowns cover, this restoration method covers all four corners of a tooth, but stops short of the gum line.

  • Crown – Sometimes called “caps,” this is the go-to fix for unrestored teeth and covers the entire tooth. Cosmetic dentists are well-versed in properly placing crowns and making sure they fit properly.

Veneers. If you’re unhappy with your natural tooth shape and your teeth are too discolored or damaged for enamel reshaping, porcelain veneers (made from a wafer thin, shell-like material) are custom made and applied to a patient’s teeth to mask tooth decay and gum recession. The Thin shells of the veneer create the effect of instant tooth whitening and can help even help minimize or mask large spaces, or elongate short teeth.   

Orthodontic treatments: Crooked or misaligned teeth in the past have been treated with old school braces… but most cosmetic dentists consider this an antiquated treatment method. A cosmetic dentist will likely recommend patients use Invisalign® because it uses clear, medical-grade plastic that’s nearly invisible, and is removable for eating and drinking purposes. Invisalign® is often custom-fit for each patient to addressed crooked teeth, tooth loss, misalignment, gaps or overcrowding. 


Check credentials

Just as not all doctors can perform every type of surgery or procedure, not all dentists are qualified to administer the same procedures. To become a cosmetic dentist, the aspiring candidates need to earn:

  1. Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or

  2. Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree.

Students can join dental school program after completing a Bachelor of Science degree in a field like biology, chemistry, or a related field, students can apply for a dental school program.

Typically a DDS or DMD course of study will include include:

  • Anatomy

  • Microbiology

  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery

  • Biochemistry

  • Anesthesia, radiology

  • Oral pathology and periodontics

Additionally, as cosmetic dentist must be licensed in their state of practice, so they must pass a written and practical examination for their state. From there, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry provides the official accreditation in cosmetic dentistry.

Just as you would with any other medical professional, it’s important to make sure your practitioner is appropriately accredited and that they are active in their continuing education.

To find the best fit, you may want to:

  • Visit the dental office. Sometimes the best way to find dentist’s office and dentist you feel comfortable is to visit in-person…prior to your first appointment. This way you can talk to the staff, inquire about accreditation and establish a first impression.

  • Ask for referrals. Have a general dentist you love but need more extensive cosmetic work done? Ask for a referral. Often, professionals are well connected with others who are local in the industry.

  • Read online reviews. Going online and reading reviews or looking at before and after pictures can help give you an idea of a cosmetic dentists approach and reputation. In fact, many cosmetic dentists have their portfolios on Instagram as well as their website, so you can get a feel for the type of work they specialize in.

  • Review leading dentist offices in your area. While in some smaller areas, cosmetic dentists may be few and far between, a better smile may be just around the corner! Many local guides and online resources have a list of the top-rated medical and dental professionals for each state, region or county.


Ask if they offer sedation dentistry

Just as not all doctors are certified and able to perform every type of medical procedure, not all dentists can perform certain dental techniques or administer sedation. Sedation dentistry requires special training, and each state carries its own qualification requirements. For example, before a dentist can legally practice sedation dentistry in California, they must complete:

  1. a board-approved educational program on oral medications and sedation

  2. At least 25 hours of training

  3. One live patient experience

You may want to inquire what types of sedation dentistry options they offer (nitrous oxide, oral sedation, or IV sedation.)

Book a consultation with our team to learn more about our treatments today.

About The Art of Dentistry

Located in San Diego, Dr. David Landau, Dr. Lawrence Addleson and their extraordinary team are widely recognized for their top-quality smile designs. They have been awarded with recognition from their  peers for many consecutive years and have been credited for the “whole body” approach to cosmetic dentistry.

Book a consultation with our team to learn more about our treatments today.