Cosmetic Dentistry: What It Can and Can’t Do

The cosmetic dentistry industry has seen tremendous growth in recent years due to the increasing demand for aesthetic and restorative dental treatments. According to research, the US cosmetic dentistry industry is worth a whopping $5 billion.

From tooth-colored fillings and porcelain veneers to professional teeth whitening, cosmetic dentistry offers many ways to improve a person’s smile and restore it to its original health and beauty. It can also play an important role in preventing dental issues through regular check-ups, early diagnosis of oral problems, and expert advice on preventive measures.

What is Cosmetic Dentistry

Cosmetic dentistry is an umbrella term for a range of treatments that enhance oral appearance. These treatments can alter the shape, size, and position of teeth while also concealing imperfections such as chips, cracks, gaps, and discoloration. They’re usually considered purely aesthetic, not medically necessary. However, they can provide patients with more confidence and improve physical well-being.

Cosmetic Dentistry Vs. General Dentistry Vs. Restorative Dentistry

Cosmetic, restorative, and general dentistry are three distinct fields of dentistry, each with its focus and set of procedures.

General Dentistry

General dentistry focuses on preventing, diagnosing, and treating oral health issues, such as tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections. General dentists typically provide routine dental care, such as dental cleanings, fillings, and extractions. They may also provide preventative treatments, such as fluoride treatments and dental sealants, to help patients maintain good oral health.

Restorative Dentistry

Restorative dentistry is focused on repairing or replacing damaged or missing teeth. Restorative dental procedures are necessary to restore the function and health of the teeth and gums. Examples of restorative dental procedures include dental fillings, crowns, bridges, and dental implants.

Cosmetic Dentistry

Cosmetic dentistry is primarily concerned with improving the appearance of teeth and gums. Cosmetic dental procedures are typically elective and are not medically necessary. Examples of cosmetic dentistry procedures include teeth whitening, porcelain veneers, and gum contouring. Cosmetic dentists are trained to perform these procedures with a focus on aesthetics, taking into account the shape, size, color, and symmetry of the teeth and gums.

Cosmetic Dentistry Limitations

While cosmetic dentistry has many benefits, there are also limitations to be aware of before undergoing any treatment. Here, we’ll look at three main limitations of cosmetic dentistry – health issues, cost, and longevity.

Health Issues

Before beginning any cosmetic dental procedure, it is important to consult your dentist and ensure that your oral health is good. If you have cavities or gum disease, these issues should be treated first. Your dentist may even advise against elective procedures if they feel that treatment could be harmful or risky for your teeth. There are some cases where a patient’s teeth may not be able to withstand certain treatments due to decay or other issues.


Depending on the type of treatment you choose, costs can range anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. In addition to the actual cost of the procedure itself, there may also be additional costs associated with any follow-up visits or adjustments needed after the procedure has been completed. It is important to research what types of treatments are available and how much they will cost before committing to anything.


Certain treatments, such as veneers and crowns, will last for several years but eventually may need to be replaced due to wear and tear or damage from grinding or clenching your teeth at night. Teeth whitening results can vary depending on lifestyle choices, such as smoking and drinking coffee or tea regularly; these habits may cause the results of whitening treatments to fade more quickly than normal over time.

What Cosmetic Dentistry Can Do

Cosmetic dentistry can offer various treatments and procedures designed to improve the appearance of teeth and gums. Here are some examples of what cosmetic dentistry can do:

Teeth whitening

One of the most popular cosmetic dentistry procedures, teeth whitening is a non-invasive treatment that can brighten teeth by several shades. It is a safe and effective way to remove surface stains and discoloration and can be performed in a dental office or at home with a custom-fitted whitening kit.

Porcelain veneers

Veneers are thin, custom-made shells that are bonded to the front surface of the teeth to improve their appearance. They can be used to cover up imperfections such as cracks, chips, and discoloration, as well as to improve the shape, size, and alignment of the teeth.

Dental bonding

Bonding is a procedure in which a tooth-colored resin material is applied to the teeth to improve their appearance. It can be used to repair chips, cracks, and gaps in the teeth and improve their shape and size.


Invisalign is a clear aligner system used to straighten crooked or misaligned teeth. It is a discreet and convenient alternative to traditional metal braces and can be used to correct a range of orthodontic issues.

Dental implants

Implants are artificial tooth roots placed into the jawbone to support a replacement tooth or bridge. They are a long-lasting and natural-looking solution for missing teeth.

Gum contouring

Gum contouring is a procedure used to reshape and reposition the gum tissue to improve the appearance of the teeth. It can correct a gummy smile or uneven gum line or create a more symmetrical appearance.

What Cosmetic Dentistry Can’t Do

While cosmetic dentistry can do so much to improve the appearance of teeth and gums, there are certain issues that cosmetic dentists can’t treat. Here are some examples of such issues:

  • Cavities: Cosmetic dentistry cannot treat cavities or other forms of tooth decay. These issues must be treated with restorative dentistry procedures, such as fillings, crowns, or root canals.
  • Gum disease: Cosmetic dentistry cannot treat gum disease – a common condition that affects the health of the gums and can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Gum disease requires periodontal treatment from a qualified periodontist.
  • Tooth infections: Cosmetic dentistry cannot treat tooth infections, which require a root canal or other restorative procedure to remove the infected tissue and preserve the tooth.
  • Misaligned bite: While cosmetic dentistry can treat minor tooth misalignment issues, it cannot treat more significant issues with the bite or jaw alignment. These issues may require orthodontic treatment or jaw surgery.
  • Bruxism: Cosmetic dentistry cannot treat bruxism – a condition in which patients grind or clench their teeth. Bruxism can cause tooth damage, jaw pain, and other issues and requires treatment from a dentist or oral surgeon.


Cosmetic dentistry can improve the appearance of a person’s teeth and smile, which can positively impact their self-confidence and overall quality of life. However, it’s important to note that cosmetic dentistry may not fully address certain dental problems related to oral health, such as gum disease or decay.

If you are interested in learning more about cosmetic dentistry and the treatments that may be right for you, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team of dental professionals can provide you with personalized recommendations and help you achieve the smile of your dreams.

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