man smiling showing beautiful teeth

There are many different specialties and types of providers within the dental world. Endodontists, oral surgeons, prosthodontists, orthodontists – and cosmetic dentists. Cosmetic dentistry has risen in recent decades, with more dentists branching out in an esthetic direction. But what exactly distinguishes a cosmetic dentist from a general dentist, and which is right for your needs? Learn more about the key differences before you take on your smile makeover.

Cosmetic Dentistry vs. General Dentistry

The fundamental difference between the two specialties is fairly clear from the titles – but there’s more to learn about why each type of dentist practices in their field.

  • A general dentist focuses on the overall health of your teeth and gums. They diagnose cavities, gum disease, and other oral concerns and often provide treatments to heal these concerns. They also provide preventive care like cleanings and exams. They work with you long-term to track your oral health and help you maintain healthy teeth and gums throughout your lifetime. Depending on your needs, they may provide all your treatments or refer you to a specialist.
  • A cosmetic dentist focuses on the appearance of your teeth and gums. They assist you in changing the appearance of your smile to craft teeth that make you feel confident and allow you to smile freely. Cosmetic dentists typically provide procedures like whitening, bonding, crowns, and veneers. They may also provide non-elective treatments related to your health, like implants and bridges to replace missing teeth. Cosmetic dentists have typically received additional training in esthetic procedures.

What to look for in a cosmetic dentist

Their Training and Experience

Check your dentist’s website and ask them about their past training and range of experience. Cosmetic dentists specialize in creating beautiful smiles that also function well and support your overall oral health. They do have more experience with elective treatments, but also have a foundational background in oral diseases and can provide the same preventive care as a general dentist.

Their Preferred Procedures

Cosmetic dentists typically have more experience with procedures like teeth whitening, dental bonding, porcelain veneers, and porcelain crowns. These treatments change the appearance of your smile while also maintaining or improving tooth function. Ask your dentist which procedures they have the most experience with and enjoy performing. A cosmetic dentist has an artist’s eye and loves nothing more than transforming smiles.

Their Past Patient Cases

If they’ve been providing cosmetic procedures for some time, the cosmetic dentist should have a collection of before and after images of their patients’ treatment results. Taking a look at these will help you understand their skill and allow you to start visualizing your smile makeover. This will also give you an idea of which procedures they perform most often.

Should I see a cosmetic dentist or a general dentist?

Considering whether you should receive cosmetic treatment from your regular dentist or a dedicated cosmetic dentist can be a tricky question. Ask yourself the following to guide your decision-making process:

  • Does my general dentist have cosmetic experience, and do they perform the procedure I’m interested in? Many general dentists have a broad range of experience and enjoy both cosmetic and restorative cases. Ask your dentist about their experience and whether they’re comfortable taking on your smile makeover. Because they’ve been working with you for an extended period, they’re also familiar with your needs and dental history and can bring that background to your cosmetic care.
  • Would I rather continue with the same provider, rather than work with someone new? Dental anxiety can be a major concern for new cosmetic patients because treatment is different from anything they’ve experienced in the past from standard preventive care. If you’re feeling nervous about seeing a new dentist, that may mean that you would benefit from receiving cosmetic treatment from your general dentist (as long as they offer it, of course).
  • What is my treatment budget? A dedicated cosmetic dentist can often be more expensive than a general dentist because they have received additional specialized training in esthetic treatments. This may mean a higher price tag on your veneers. Because cosmetic treatments are not typically covered by dental insurance, this is wise to consider before moving forward with a specialized provider.

Looking for a local cosmetic or general dentist? Dr. Baudean has decades of experience with a range of cosmetic and restorative procedures. Reach out today to schedule an appointment and move toward your stunning new smile!