What Is the Difference between General Dentistry and Cosmetic Dentistry?

You go to the dentist to keep your teeth healthy. Generally, better oral health means a nicer looking smile. However, for millions of people, visiting a regular dentist is not enough to give them the smile they want. Your general dentist focuses on preventing tooth decay and other dental problems. However, a cosmetic dentist performs cosmetic procedures that can give you a brighter, prettier smile. Figuring out what you want from your dentist can help you determine the type of dentist to visit.

First, you should be seeing a general dentist at least twice a year. General guidelines are that people get cleanings every six months and x-rays once a year. X-rays help your dentist spot problems before they can develop into something serious. They can help save your teeth and prevent further tooth decay. So, if you are not seeing a dentist now, you want to make sure you are seeing a dentist at least twice a year.

A general dentist is like the general practitioner for your mouth. They focus on oral hygiene, fixing cavities, and addressing tooth pain. General dentists handle procedures like cleanings, fillings, and root canals. Although, in some cases your general dentist may refer you to an endodontist, which is another type of specialized dentist.

Cosmetic dentists have the same training as a general dentist, but they focus on making your smile look more attractive, as well. Most cosmetic dentists perform teeth cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and other standard dental work. However, some cosmetic dentists may prefer to focus on the cosmetic aspect and work with a general dentist for basic care. Those details depend on the dentist. For example, some practices focus on providing a single aspect of cosmetic dentistry, like veneers or caps.

A cosmetic dentist focuses on how your smile looks. They are focused on aesthetics. So, they offer things like veneers, implants, tooth whitening, and other procedures. These procedures might be considered restorative if they help return teeth to a prior condition, or purely cosmetic. The difference can be important when looking at insurance coverage.

Both type of dentists can also handle braces. Years ago, dentists did not handle orthodontics. Instead, they sent you to an orthodontist if you needed braces or other work. However, today many dentists also handle orthodontics, especially with non-invasive tooth straightening techniques. So, both a cosmetic dentist and a general dentist may be able to help you get a straighter smile. That is no surprise. While straightening your teeth may seem cosmetic, it can actually have a positive impact on your health. So, insurance may cover some portion of orthodontic care.

So, which type of dentists should you see? To decide, you need to determine your tooth goals. That can depend on what is going on in your mouth. If you need root canals, crowns, or dental implants after having a tooth removed, then you are in a different position than someone who just wants tooth whitening.

One of the best ways to start is to schedule a consultation. When you visit your dentist, they should have a treatment plan to outline the care for your teeth. The treatment plan is based on the condition of your teeth. If you have additional cosmetic concerns, you should discuss them with your doctor to add them to your treatment plan.

Dr. Anthony Mancino

Dr. Anthony Mancino is Monmouth and Ocean County New Jersey’s General and Cosmetic Dentist and has been practicing for over 25 years focusing on cosmetic and overall dental health. Dr. Mancino is a graduate of Villanova University and University of Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the American Dental Association, New Jersey Dental Association, Monmouth & Ocean County Dental Association, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and the Academy of General Dentistry.

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