If you are considering dentists, you might have noticed that dentists often offer many different types of dentistry. Two common ones are general dentistry and cosmetic dentistry. If you’re not entirely sure what’s the difference between these two types of dentistry, it’s perfectly understandable. Not only that, but if you do an Internet search on the question, most of the answers you get will be wrong. 

We’ll start with the common wrong answer, then tell you the true difference between general and cosmetic dentistry. 

confused woman pondering a question

A Common Misconception about General and Cosmetic Dentistry

Most people will tell you that general dentistry and cosmetic dentistry are two separate dental fields. General dentistry deals with the health of your teeth, and is focused on preventive and restorative care.

From this perspective, general dentists are the dentists you see for checkups and cleanings, or that you visit when you have a toothache. They offer procedures like:

These procedures focus on maintaining and restoring the health of your teeth. 

Cosmetic dentistry, people will say, is a different field of dentistry that is focused on the appearance of your smile, rather than its health. It focuses on aesthetic procedures. You only see a cosmetic dentist if you’re unhappy with the appearance of your smile, and they will provide you with procedures like:

  • Porcelain inlays and onlays
  • Dental bridges
  • Dental implants

These procedures are primarily used for improving the appearance of your teeth. 

Why This Explanation Is Wrong

The above explanation is very common, but there are two reasons why it is wrong. The first is pretty obvious if you read the lists of procedures above. With the exception of a couple of procedures, the lists are the same. When it comes to the types of dental procedures performed, cosmetic dentistry and general dentistry are very similar. There is so much overlap between the two lists of procedures that it’s impossible to consider the two as being separate fields of dentistry.

The second reason why the common explanation is wrong is a little more legal and technical in the dental field. Legally, dentists are bound by certain guidelines adopted by the national and state dental boards. One of these guidelines lays out the types of dental specialties that dentists can study, test, and be certified in. These are:

  • Dental anesthesiology
  • Dental public health
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and maxillofacial pathology
  • Oral and maxillofacial radiology
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery
  • Oral medicine
  • Orofacial pain
  • Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
  • Pediatric dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics

A quick glance will show you that there is no cosmetic dentistry specialty. You can even check the definitions of the specialties with the American Dental Association (ADA) and see that none of these are cosmetic dentistry. This means that, from a legal standpoint, most dentists practicing cosmetic dentistry are actually general dentists, and, by definition, what they practice is general dentistry.

What Truly Makes Cosmetic Dentistry Different

So what sets cosmetic dentistry apart, if it’s not a separate field of dentistry? 

Cosmetic dentistry is a philosophy of dentistry. It’s the belief that our teeth and gums perform many vital functions, and that one of those vital functions is presenting an attractive smile. An attractive smile is essential to our ability to function as human beings in society. Cosmetic dentists believe that whenever performing a dental procedure, it’s important to take the appearance of our smile into consideration. Any dental procedure that makes a smile unattractive is substandard and a disservice to a patient.

Cosmetic dentists point to the fact that often beauty, health, and function go hand in hand. Naturally white teeth aren’t just attractive, they are healthy, having thick enamel and no cavities. Straight teeth aren’t just attractive, they’re functional, providing for a balanced bite where teeth all support each other. An uneven gum line isn’t just unattractive, it’s often a sign of gum disease and gum recession.

Why You Should Always Visit a Cosmetic Dentist

If you are looking for a new dentist, you should always choose a cosmetic dentist. That’s because a cosmetic dentist will take a more comprehensive look at your teeth and gums. They can likely perform all the procedures a general dentist can, because they’re probably general dentists.

However, they will give you care that always factors in the importance of your smile’s appearance when performing any dental procedures. From cleanings and fillings to bridges and implants, a cosmetic dentist will help your teeth look healthy and be healthy.

Choose a Cosmetic Dentist in Woburn/Winchester, MA

If you are looking for a cosmetic dentist in Woburn/Winchester, MA, come see us at Divine Smiles. We are constantly transforming lives through the power of a smile, and we can transform yours. To learn how our approach to cosmetic dentistry can help you, please call (781) 396-8558 or use our contact form to request an appointment at Divine Smiles in Woburn, MA.