A cosmetic dentist is basically one who has chosen to limit their practice to performing procedures related to improving the appearance of your teeth. They may or may not have certifications to identify them as specialists in this area. In any case, cosmetic dentistry usually involves dental procedures such as:
- Teeth whitening
- Porcelain veneers (including a specific type called lumineers)
- Invisalign (a type of orthodontic procedure)
- Crowns and bridges (including those placed on dental implants)
In most cases a cosmetic dentist will provide treatment options that will include any combination of the above procedures. They will usually collaborate with a patient to achieve a smile enhancement that is in harmony with their expectations and budget.
What to look for in a quality cosmetic dentist
Some dentists may say they specialize in “cosmetic dentistry” because they can replace silver fillings with white ones and do tooth whitening. However, when people talk about cosmetic dentistry they are generally referring to an expert in smile enhancement or smile design. Typically this means improving one’s smile with the use of crowns, bridges, porcelain veneers and tooth whitening (or a combination of the above).
A “good” cosmetic dentist may not be able to draw a stick figure but they will have a strong artistic eye. What does that mean? Well, while there certainly is a scientific, mathematical and exact clinical aspect to creating a beautiful new smile, there is also an artistic side that calls into play the individual patients’ bone structure and facial aesthetics as well as their skin tone, facial symmetry and lip line. The patients’ personal preferences should also be taken into account. All of this is essential to the process of cosmetic dentistry.
Bottom line: a quality cosmetic dentist does not promote cookie cutter smiles. They don’t try to pigeonhole a patient into limited options or products. Instead, they typically offer a variety of product choices and smile enhancement options.
A quality cosmetic dentist will practice this way because; at the core of their being is a strong passion and belief that esthetic dentistry can change lives. They know that an improved smile is not some superficial or unnecessary enhancement but that it results in a significant, positive change in a patients’ self-perception as well as how others perceive them.
Granted, artistry and passion are difficult to “school” into a dentist and the end result of cosmetic dentistry is always going to be subjective (at least to some degree). So, it is difficult to officially categorize cosmetic dentists as “good” or “bad”; “quality” or “cheap”; passionate or indifferent.
So then, it begs the question:
What schooling is required to become one? And, is there any objective way to find a good cosmetic dentist?
To become a cosmetic dentist one must, of course, go to dental school. Unfortunately, at this point in dental education and regulation there is no formal university post-doctorate specialty training in this field. As a result, any dentist that has a valid license can claim to specialize in this area.
Here, we will try to provide a few key factors a patient should consider.
First, any cosmetic dentist worth his salt will have a “brag book” or “smile gallery” that highlights their most successful cosmetic cases. This should vary from straightforward tooth whitening procedures to full mouth smile designs incorporating everything from crowns and bridges to porcelain veneers. Even better, it would also contain more complex cases where the results were not ideal but as good as could be accomplished under the circumstances. This helps the patient understand that there are rare cases in which an “ideal” outcome should not be expected and that no dentist can absolutely guarantee such an outcome (this speaks to honesty and integrity).
Second, there are respected agencies who offer credentials to cosmetic dentists by classifying them into varying levels of expertise, based on the number of cases they have completed and their relative “success” as determined by a board of dental experts. However, even this is more a measure of the clinical experience of the dentist than an indication of how “good” they are at creating beautiful smiles. The governing body best known and respected for this is the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD).
Also, if your dentist offers Invisalign as part of the smile enhancement process you can verify their expertise by visiting the official Invisalign website. Since the company works hand-in-hand with the clinician for this process they are actually best suited to classify the experience of Invisalign providers.
What do I need to do if I am looking for a good cosmetic dentist?
Simply put, there is no definitive way to determine which cosmetic dentist is best suited for the particular needs of any given patient. All we can say about finding a “good” cosmetic dentist is there is no substitute for due diligence; investigate the AACD to determine their clinical experience and then search through the dentists “smile gallery” on their website or even make an in-office appointment to interview them personally.
If you are a patient looking for cosmetic dentistry, be sure and do your homework. Ask your general dentist for advice. The results may be with you for a lifetime!