What Type of Dentist Do I Need?

For anyone in search of preventative care or has specialized clinical conditions in relation to dental needs, finding the right dentist is key. Two of the most common types of dentists are cosmetic and general. So, what’s the real difference among those in the dental fields?


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What is the difference between a dentist and a cosmetic dentist?

It’s important to understand that while both cosmetic and general dentists went to dental school, are schooled in the same foundational material, and are recognized by the American Dental Association, not all general dentists are considered cosmetic dentists or are versed in cosmetic procedures.

Typically, a general dentist or orthodontist specializes in the general maintenance of the mouth, and while they may offer a broad range of services, cosmetic dentists can handle all the same oral health needs that general dentistry provides… and then some.

A cosmetic dentist has the same basic training as a general dentist has; however, what sets them apart is that their services sit within the intersection of artistry and medical science. Cosmetic dentists have extensive training in more artistic aspects and are well versed in the cultural and social importance tied to dental aesthetics. They provide cosmetic treatments which not only lead to better overall dental health but provide patients with improved aesthetic appearance, and often, better self-esteem.

Research shows that over fifty percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the overall aesthetic appearance of their smile, and research suggests that dental disorders hugely impact mental health and overall well-being.


Most Common General Dentistry Focuses

As a whole, general and cosmetic dentists focus on four primary areas of concern, which include:

  1. Tooth damage/decay: One of the major dentistry concerns is damaged or decayed teeth which can lead to missing or deficient teeth. Often, this isn’t only painful, but can lead to functional problems that may affect eating, drinking or talking. Permanently damaged teeth may require dentists to repair the issue with a dental crown or a cap to cover a damaged tooth. In other instances, dental bridges, dental implants, root canals and other types of dental surgery may be needed to fulfill repair needs.
  2. Poor alignment: While aesthetics are of course a component of cosmetic dentistry, alignment issues are addressed by both general and cosmetic dentistry. When overlooked, misalignment can lead to damage to the teeth and gums, but it can also cause chronic pain and a cascade of other health issues, such as headaches, or  temporomandibular joint disorder (otherwise known as TMJ.) In extreme circumstances, teeth may also crack.  Traditional braces, Invisalign and other medical devices, such a retainer, can help improve alignment, oral function, and the overall look of a patient’s smile.
  3. Teeth discoloration: One of the most common dental concerns centers around stained teeth. Both cosmetic dentists and general dentists offer teeth whitening services. While whitening can be done at home, dentists can provide more professional, effective, and less-irritating results than at-home options.  Often, many of these services also include reusable molds which can then be taken home along with a supply of medical-grade teeth whitening treatment.
  4. Poor hygiene: While genetics plays a large part in our overall dental health, poor hygiene can lead to gum disease and other dental problems covered above, including cavities, decay and discoloration and ultimately, alignment issues. Family dentistry usually seeks to provide additional education to help with preventative care and to improve oral hygiene practices.


Cosmetic Dentistry Services 

Cosmetic dentists see each mouth as unique as a fingerprint. Each requires special consideration, and as a result there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment planning. Instead, cosmetic dentists customize their approach and combine their understanding of biology, mechanics and aesthetic desires.

Some of the most common cosmetic procedures include:

Dental implants: For those who have struggled with ill fitting dentures or have either a missing tooth or multiple missing teeth, a dental implant can help create a natural, beautiful smile. This cosmetic procedure is a one-stop shop for a total smile makeover; however, it does require a multi-step process which fuses artificial, custom-made teeth to root anchors in the gum. Typically, the implant base material is titanium, which is attached to the jawbone, minimizing the slipping or damage that often accompanies bridgework or dentures.

Dental crowns: Crowns or “caps” as they’re sometimes called help reshape teeth or fix cracks and breaks too large for a filling. These days, amalgam fillings and crowns have been traded in for acrylic or porcelain, so they blend with your natural teeth, and are fused to metal to withstand biting pressure.

Veneers: For those unhappy with their natural tooth shape, or those with discoloration and damage who want a bright smile, porcelain veneers (made from a thin, shell-like material) are custom made and applied to the patient’s teeth. Veneers can help even help minimize or mask large spaces, or elongate short teeth.

Teeth shaping: Dental bonding is the process which a dental provider can use to reshape uneven teeth by filing down or using bonding materials. Of all the cosmetic dental practices, this is a relatively quick process, and can greatly improve a patient’s smile by using special, color-matched materials to repair or improve badly damaged or chipped teeth.

Gum contouring: For those primarily concerned with having an overly “gummy” smile, gum reshaping can be done by manipulating the oral and maxillofacial tissues to create a more pleasing tooth and gum shape. This is usually done by a cosmetic dentist who will use a special laser or scalpel to remove excess gum tissue and shape the gum line to reveal more of the tooth.

Orthodontic treatments: While some general dentists still prescribe braces for alignment concerns, 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. Most cosmetic dentists will custom-fit for each patient to help fix crooked teeth, misalignment, gaps or overcrowding.

Specialized Cosmetic Dentist Tools

Because cosmetic dentists have access to some of the most advanced technology available in the industry, they are able to provide more convenient alternatives to time-consuming traditional approaches. For example, Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramic (CEREC) helps fabricate and repair dental damage, including inlays, onlays, three-quarter crowns, crowns, or veneers all in the same visit.


Dental crown

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.