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Cosmetic Dentistry FAQs

What is the difference between cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry?

There are three main differences between cosmetic and restorative dentistry. Generally speaking, cosmetic dentistry focuses more on the aesthetic of your smile while restorative dentistry focuses more on the functionality, resolving structural problems with the mouth and improving oral health. (This isn’t to say that restorative procedures don’t take smile aesthetics into consideration—they do—it’s just not the primary intent.) Restorative procedures tend to be essential, such as replacing or repairing teeth, while cosmetic procedures are usually elective, such as fixing small gaps or discolorations, problems that don’t necessarily affect a person’s overall oral health.

Dental implants, root canals, and amalgam dental fillings are examples of restorative dentistry.

Dental bonding, teeth whitening, and veneers are examples of cosmetic dentistry.

Some dental procedures can be both restorative and cosmetic, such as composite or tooth-colored fillings, while others may be categorized as one or the other depending on the intent of the procedures, such as dental surgery or dental crowns.

In reality, while some dentists specialize in one or the other, or in a specific procedure, many dentists—like those from Norman Smile Center—are trained in areas of both, which means you can receive the majority of the treatments you may need from the same familiar provider. Moreover, cosmetic and restorative dentistry procedures often overlap and complement each other to help give you the healthiest, most beautiful smile possible.

What is different about a cosmetic dentist from a regular dentist?

For the most part, general dentists are more interested in preventing and treating oral conditions to preserve your dental health, while cosmetic dentists specialize in improving the aesthetics and appearance of an already-healthy smile. However, there is often overlap, because good dental care can improve the appearance of your smile while certain cosmetic procedures can encourage a healthier one.

A general dentist will:

  • Diagnose and treat oral conditions or diseases, such as cavities or gum disease
  • Provide routine and preventative care like dental cleanings and fluoride treatment
  • Assist with your overall oral health and dental hygiene routine

A cosmetic dentist will:

  • Offer a wide range of aesthetic procedures to improve the appearance of your smile, such as veneers, dental bonding, and teeth whitening

However, many cosmetic and general dentistry often overlap and complement each other. For example, when placing a filling, your dentist may offer to use composite or tooth-colored filling material instead of amalgam to make the filling more aesthetically pleasing and less noticeable.

No matter whether you’re looking for a cosmetic dentist or a general dentist, be sure your dentist has a dental degree from an accredited dental school and is a member of the American Dental Association. This ensures he or she has the skill and expertise necessary to provide treatments, services, and procedures that help your smile, not hurt it.

At Norman Smile Center, our general dentists also have training and experience in cosmetic dentistry procedures, so you can find all the services you need for your healthiest, most beautiful smile all under one roof.

Will dental insurance cover my cosmetic dentistry?

The majority of cosmetic dentistry procedures are considered elective—not essential for improving or preserving oral health or preventing oral health conditions—and are therefore not covered by dental insurance plans. However, there are some cosmetic dentistry services that, if deemed medically necessary by your dental provider, may be covered in part or in whole by your insurance company, such as:

  • Braces or clear aligners, depending on the age and insurance plan of the patient
  • Gum contouring, if it’s needed for oral health reasons

Before deciding on any cosmetic dentistry procedures, be sure to speak with your insurance company and your dentist. Even if your insurance won’t cover a cosmetic service, you may be able to take advantage of special offers from the dentist or customized payment plans to help you afford the treatments you need for a beautiful smile.

Will cosmetic dentistry damage my teeth?

Cosmetic dentistry procedures are very safe with minimal side effects when performed by a qualified and certified dental professional. Not all cosmetic dentistry services are right or appropriate for everyone; unnecessary treatment can damage perfectly healthy teeth and getting certain procedures without addressing problems like cavities or gum disease can cause more serious health issues.

However, licensed dental professionals certified by the ADA—like those at Norman Smile Center—are trained and experienced in identifying oral health conditions that would preclude certain cosmetic dentistry procedures and will advise against it. If you are interested in cosmetic dentistry options, the dentists at Norman Smile Center can perform a complete oral health assessment and help determine if you are a good candidate.

Are there any reasons why I couldn’t get cosmetic dentistry?

Dental health is one of the primary factors that could keep you from cosmetic dental treatment. If you have extensive cavities or advanced gum disease, you will need to treat them before your dentist will perform any cosmetic dental procedures.

Cosmetic dentistry can’t fix problems like severely decayed or infected teeth, or significant misalignment issues; they will require more specialized and extensive prosthodontic, endodontic, or orthodontic treatment to remove and replace missing teeth, treat infected teeth, or realign the jaws.

Another reason keeping you from cosmetic dentistry may be price. Because it’s considered elective, cosmetic dentistry is rarely covered by dental insurance plans. However, Norman Smile Center offers an array of financing and customized payment plans on our affordable cosmetic dentistry procedures to help make things like teeth whitening, gum contouring, and veneers fit your budget.

What are the most common cosmetic dentistry procedures?

Common cosmetic dental procedures include:

  • Dental bonding, which consists of applying tooth-colored composite resin to correct teeth that are discolored, cracked, chipped, or misshapen.
  • Teeth whitening, via in-office or take-home treatments, to remove stubborn stains and brighten your smile.
  • Teeth and/or gum contouring, to remove small amounts of enamel or gum tissue to reshape your teeth and gum line for a more symmetrical and balanced smile.
  • Porcelain veneers, which are thin shells of porcelain adhered to the front surfaces of the teeth to hide chips, cracks, or discolorations and create a more even smile.
  • Clear aligners, to correct minor issues like small gaps or crooked teeth
  • Ceramic crowns, to reshape teeth that appear misshapen or disproportionate.
  • Therapeutic Botox injections, to treat high lip lines or gummy smiles and improve facial aesthetics.

How is a smile makeover different from full mouth reconstruction?

Although both a smile makeover and a full mouth reconstruction involve many of the same types of procedures, a smile makeover is considered elective treatment to improve the appearance of your smile while a full mouth reconstruction is essential treatment to restore lost oral function and health.

Full mouth reconstruction—sometimes called full mouth restoration or rehabilitation—may be necessary in situations where a person has lost some or all of the function of their mouth and jaws, or if the function and health of the mouth and jaws has been severely compromised. This may be as a result of trauma, oral cancer, or an inherited disorder, or as the result of multiple teeth that are:

  • Missing, from trauma, decay, or gum disease
  • Fractured, injured, eroded, or badly worn
  • Severely decayed or infected

Smile makeovers are more common for people who are simply unhappy or self-conscious about their generally healthy smile. While smile makeovers can improve the function and health of your smile to some degree, their main purpose is to improve aesthetics by correcting things like:

  • Stained, chipped, uneven, or slightly crooked teeth
  • Gummy smiles or high lip lines
  • Silver fillings
  • Gapped teeth

Full mouth reconstructions combine multiple restorative dentistry procedures while smile makeover procedures are generally cosmetic. The exact treatments needed for a full mouth reconstruction will vary based on the individual patients needs, but those specific to full mouth reconstruction often include:

  • Treatment for tooth decay, gum disease, or TMJ disorders
  • Dentures, such as conventional or implant-supported dentures
  • Dental implants
  • Oral surgery
  • Tooth extractions

Treatments like teeth whitening, tooth-colored fillings, gum contouring, and veneers are typically unique to smile makeovers.

Porcelain crowns, veneers, or bridges as well as orthodontics are treatments common in both smile makeovers and full mouth reconstructions.

What is a smile makeover?

A smile makeover combines several cosmetic dentistry procedures to improve the overall aesthetics of your smile. While a smile makeover can improve the function and health of your smile, most smile makeovers are intended to enhance already generally healthy smiles; that is, conditions like severe gum disease or cavities will probably keep you from getting a smile makeover.

A smile makeover uses treatments like teeth whitening, dental bonding, gum contouring, porcelain veneers, composite fillings, and orthodontics to correct minor aesthetic flaws like:

  • Stained or discolored teeth
  • Gapped teeth
  • Cracked or chipped teeth
  • Gummy smiles or high lip lines
  • Slightly crooked teeth
  • Uneven or disproportionate teeth 

Does cosmetic dentistry include filling cavities?

While fillings are typically considered restorative dental procedures—and necessary to preserving oral health and function—composite resin or tooth-colored fillings to replace silver fillings may be considered cosmetic.

Composite fillings are designed to blend in with the teeth for a more natural appearance than silver amalgam fillings. They can be used to fill in cavities or decayed areas of teeth or to improve the appearance of front teeth.

Most dental insurances will cover some or all of the cost of dental fillings as restorative procedures, but only for certain filling material; using other material, such as composite resin, may incur an additional out-of-pocket cost. Be sure to check with your dentist and your dental insurance plan to find out what’s covered and what isn’t.

Regardless of what type of filling you receive, any cavities or decay must be treated before you proceed with any other type of cosmetic dentistry.

Norman Smile Center offers composite fillings as an alternative to silver amalgam, so your smile can be healthy and beautiful.

Can cosmetic dentistry fix my crooked or misaligned teeth?

Cosmetic dentistry procedures like veneers, crowns, and dental bonding can fix slightly crooked, gapped, or misaligned teeth. Clear aligners can fix a broader range of alignment or orthodontic issues.

Veneers are thin sheets of porcelain that are shaped to your mouth and placed over your teeth to cover small gaps or minor misalignments.

Dental bonding can reshape teeth or close gas between teeth with a composite resin that’s applied to the front of the teeth.

Crowns are artificial teeth that can be placed over a crooked or misshapen tooth to improve the appearance of your smile.

Clear aligners are thin, clear plastic trays that are custom-molded to your mouth and used to correct crooked or crowded teeth. By using a series of trays changed out every few weeks, clear aligner treatment gently repositions your teeth and jaws to improve your alignment and straighten your smile.

Severely crooked or misaligned teeth, however, may require more extensive orthodontic treatment like braces, as may teeth that need to be rotated or pulled down from the gums.

Do you have to be a certain age to get cosmetic dentistry?

Before the age of 18, most dental procedures are considered preventative or restorative, consisting of treatments like routine cleanings, fillings, fluoride treatments, and dental sealants, as well as orthodontic treatment. These are especially important as young smiles are developing and growing, helping to establish a healthy smile for years to come.

Most dentists will not recommend cosmetic dentistry for patients under 18, because their teeth, gums, and jaw are still developing. Getting cosmetic procedures like teeth whitening, veneers, cosmetic clear aligners, or gum contouring before the mouth is done developing can cause more harm than good, and while baby teeth can benefit from preventative measures like dental sealants, any cosmetic work will be lost anyway when the child starts losing teeth.

However, once facial structure is fully developed and you have reached skeletal maturity, there is no age limit to cosmetic dentistry. Not every procedure will be right for every person, but rarely is age the reason. With an experienced dentist trained in cosmetic procedures, you can have a beautiful smile at any age.

How are bonding, veneers, and crowns different?

Veneers, bonding, and crowns can all be used for cosmetic purposes to improve the appearance and evenness of your smile.

Veneers are thin porcelain shells that are adhered to the front surface of teeth that are misshapen, stained, chipped, or slightly crooked or gapped. Veneers require a small amount of enamel to be removed from the natural tooth before placement, and may need up to three appointments to complete.

Bonding uses a tooth-colored resin to reshape teeth, correct chips or cracks, hide stains, and fill in gaps. Depending on the extent of correction needed, bonding can often be done in a single visit. While durable, bonding is susceptible to staining and chipping.

Crowns are artificial teeth that can be used to restore an entire tooth that is severely cracked or decayed or has a number of fillings. The tooth or teeth being treated may need substantial reshaping to prepare them for the crown.

Veneers and crowns tend to take a little longer and cost a little more than bonding because they require material to be custom-fitted to your teeth. Bonding, on the other hand, consists of applying material directly to the teeth.

Dental bonding is the least invasive and least expensive of the three and can correct minor chips and shape irregularities, but it is also the least durable, and cannot address more severe cracks, chips, or flaws that need the coverage of veneers or crowns.

How expensive is cosmetic dentistry?

The cost of cosmetic dentistry will largely depend on the type of procedure. Cosmetic dentistry treatments like veneers, bonding, and gum contouring—procedures designed to improve the appearance of your smile–require special training, a good visual eye, and aesthetic touch, all of which can make them more expensive than other general dentistry services. Moreover, cosmetic procedures are usually considered elective and are not covered by dental insurance plans, so you’ll be paying for them out of pocket.

Teeth whitening is the least expensive cosmetic dental treatment, though the actual cost will vary on whether or not you are doing an in-office treatment or take-home kit, and how many sessions you need for your desired results.

Dental veneers and dental crowns are more expensive because they require custom molds of your teeth and multiple appointments, but they are also among the most durable options. Dental bonding can be a more affordable alternative to veneers and crowns, though bonding can be more susceptible to staining or chipping.

The cost of clear aligners for cosmetic purposes will also vary depending the estimated treatment time and level of correction.

Before beginning any cosmetic dentistry, your dentist should conduct a thorough oral health evaluation to make sure your mouth is healthy enough for cosmetic work and create a detailed treatment plan that will include any and all services and their cost. Cases where treatments like crowns or clear aligners are necessary for preserving oral health and function may be eligible for coverage from some insurance plans, so be sure to ask your dentist about options you may be able to take advantage of.

Norman Smile Center offers a range of affordable cosmetic dentistry services, as well as flexible financing and payment options to help you pay for the treatments you need for your most beautiful smile.

Are orthodontics considered cosmetic dentistry?

While orthodontic treatment like braces and clear aligners are usually associated with correcting severe misalignment and bite issues, they can also be used for cosmetic reasons to correct minor irregularities and improve the appearance of your smile. However, only a certified orthodontist or dentist trained in orthodontics can determine whether you need orthodontics for oral health and functioning purposes or for cosmetic purposes.

The primary purpose of orthodontic treatment is to diagnose, prevent, and treat dental and facial irregularities that could compromise the health and function of your mouth and jaws. And for some people, effective orthodontic work may eliminate their desire for cosmetic dental services.

Though there is an added benefit to having straighter teeth, orthodontic treatment for cosmetic reasons is only intended to improve how your smile looks. Orthodontic treatment is typically considered cosmetic if the misalignment is noticeable but not affecting oral health and function.

Certain dental insurance plans may cover some or all of the cost of orthodontics for patients under the age of 19 and for whom orthodontic treatment is deemed necessary for preserving oral health. However, orthodontic treatment for adults or for cosmetic reasons is rarely covered, so be sure to check with your dentist or orthodontist before beginning treatment. 

How is cosmetic dentistry different from prosthodontics?

Although there are some overlaps between cosmetic dentistry and prosthodontic services, the main differences lie in the general purpose and the level of specialized training.

While prosthodontics involves the diagnosis, treatment planning, restoration, and maintenance of oral function, comfort, appearance, and health, cosmetic dentistry is only intended to improve the appearance and aesthetics of an already generally healthy smile.

Cosmetic dentistry is not a dental specialty recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA), but prosthodontics is. This means that prosthodontists—or dentists specializing in prosthodontist—must receive extra training and education in an ADA-certified program after dental school, during which they gain in-depth experience in leading teams of specialists for coordinated care, handling complex restorative cases, and all types of dental prosthetics and restorative treatments, such as dental implants, crowns, bridges, and dentures.

Prosthodontists are also trained to treat and/or work with other specialists who treat conditions like:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Full mouth reconstructions
  • Implant-supported dentures and dental implants
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth loss and severe tooth decay

Prosthodontic treatment can be used for only cosmetic purposes, but it is primarily functional and focused on restoring lost oral health and function, such as in the case of missing or severely decayed teeth or bone loss in the jaw. While prosthodontists can perform most cosmetic procedures, not all cosmetic dentists are trained to provide safe and effective prosthodontic services.

Are clear aligners considered cosmetic dentistry?

Clear aligners and other orthodontic treatment can be classified in two ways: restorative or cosmetic. Restorative treatment is intended to improve the function and health of the mouth through proper realignment of the jaws. Cosmetic treatment is intended to enhance the appearance of your smile.

If you are getting clear aligners to correct a severe bite or alignment issue that is affecting how your mouth functions, then your clear aligners are considered restorative and necessary for your long term oral health.

If you are getting clear aligners to correct minor gaps, to straighten teeth that have shifted after previous orthodontic treatment, or just to improve a smile you are self-conscious about, then your clear aligner treatment is probably going to be considered cosmetic.

No matter whether you are getting clear aligners for cosmetic or restorative purposes, you should always seek treatment from a certified provider. Using clear aligners—or any kind of orthodontic treatment—without proper supervision from a professional can not only produce poor results, but it could also cause more harm than good. 

Can cosmetic dentistry procedures be performed by a general dentist?

Although many general dentists may have an area of specialty—such as endodontics or prosthodontics—there is no designated specialty for cosmetic dentistry, but dentists who want to concentrate in cosmetic dentistry can seek additional specialized training through a variety of programs and can even become accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.

However, cosmetic dentistry is a broad term to describe any dental services solely intended to improve the appearance of your smile, and dental professionals—including general dentists–typically have the training and experience to perform most of them. For example, in addition to routine cleanings, checkups, x-rays, and fillings, your general dentist is also likely to provide cosmetic services like teeth whitening, dental bonding, crowns, and veneers.

Whether it’s general or cosmetic dentistry, safe, effective dental care requires the same level of training, as well as a Doctor of Dental Medicine or Doctor of Dental Surgery from an ADA-accredited program.  

A general dentist will usually be more focused in diagnosing, treating, and preventing oral health conditions, while a cosmetic dentist will be more concerned with the appearance of your teeth and gums. A general dentist will also provide a wider array of services, whereas a cosmetic dentist may have a limited offering of only aesthetic treatments. 

What kinds of problems can cosmetic dentistry fix?

Cosmetic dentistry like dental bonding, veneers, crowns, and teeth whitening can help correct a wide range of irregularities or flaws in your smile, including:

  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Severely stained or discolored teeth
  • Slightly crooked or misshapen teeth
  • Teeth that appear uneven, disproportionate, or too short or too long
  • Gaps between teeth
  • Gummy smiles or high lip lines
  • Receding gum lines

Cosmetic dentistry cannot address oral health problems like cavities, infection, decay, or disease, such as gum disease. These conditions require restorative treatment such as fillings, root canals, or gum therapy.

Can I get more than one cosmetic dentistry procedure?

Depending on your unique oral health and the types of procedures, yes, it’s possible—and  common–to get more than one cosmetic dentistry procedure at once. During your cosmetic dentistry consultation, your dentist will discuss your concerns and goals with you to determine which procedures might be best for you, and you may need several to achieve your best, most beautiful smile.

A smile makeover is a combination of cosmetic dentistry procedures designed to enhance multiple aspects of your smile at once. Your treatment plan will be customized to your needs, and could include services like:

  • Veneers
  • Dental bonding, shaping, and contouring
  • Botox
  • Dental crowns
  • Composite fillings
  • Teeth whitening

Regardless of which or how many cosmetic dentistry services you are interested in, your treatment plan should take your entire facial aesthetics and your oral health into consideration to ensure your results are as safe and natural looking as possible. 

Can cosmetic dentistry improve my smile or make my smile healthier?

Even though the purpose of cosmetic dentistry is to improve the appearance of your smile, it can also end up improving the health of it. Here’s how:

  • Fixing gaps in your teeth with dental bonding or veneers can improve how your teeth line up and make it easier to keep your teeth clean.
  • Cracks, chips, and multiple fillings can compromise the strength and integrity of a tooth. Dental crowns, veneers, composite fillings, and bonding can help restore teeth and make them stronger and more durable.
  • Gum contouring and reshaping can correct an uneven gum line that may be hard to care for or that may be exposing your tooth roots. Improving your gum line can help keep your gums and your teeth healthier.
  • Therapeutic Botox can correct a gummy smile, helping reduce associated symptoms like dry mouth, inflamed gums, and bad breath.
  • Covering a slightly crooked or uneven tooth can help improve the alignment of your bite and reduce stress on your jaw muscles.
  • Dental bonding can help reduce sensitivity by reinforcing eroded enamel.
  • Clear aligners can help straighten and properly space your teeth so you can take better care of them. (Crooked or overlapping teeth can be hard to keep clean and prone to decay and cavities.)
  • Improving your smile in general—even with a simple teeth whitening treatment—can also give you more confidence and better self-esteem, both of which contribute to better overall health.

Why would someone need cosmetic dentistry?

Even though the majority of cosmetic dentistry procedures are considered elective, many people find they not only want to improve the appearance of their smile, they need to in order to live their life to the fullest. A healthy smile isn’t necessarily flawless, and by fixing minor imperfections or irregularities, cosmetic dentistry can give people the confidence to show the smile they’ve always wanted. People seek cosmetic dentistry services for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common are those with:

  • Stained or discolored teeth
  • Gapped teeth
  • Crowded or slightly crooked teeth
  • Teeth that appear too short, too long, or are slightly misshapen
  • Old metallic restorations, like fillings and crowns
  • Cracked or chipped teeth
  • Uneven gum lines, receding gum lines, or gummy smiles

If you spend more time hiding your smile than showing it, you may benefit from a cosmetic dentistry procedure. Contact Norman Smile Center today to find out how we can help.