As a top cosmetic dentist in San Diego, I am inspired by one very important fact: Our smiles are one of the first things people notice when we meet them. Studies have shown that how our smile looks tells people a lot about us – or at least, gives them certain strong impressions about us.
For example, almost one-third of Americans say it’s the very first thing they notice about someone. Straight, healthy-looking teeth not only make someone appear more attractive, but more social and likable.
Interestingly, while baring teeth is usually a sign of aggression in animals, humans feel that seeing teeth in a smile is a sign of trustworthiness.
So it’s no surprise that there is a strong desire for a great-looking smile in the general population.
That’s where cosmetic dentists come in. What is a cosmetic dentist? What do we do? And how can we give you a perfect smile? Below, I will answer your most frequently asked questions about cosmetic dentistry.
1. What Is Cosmetic Dentistry?
Starting with the most common question – just what is cosmetic dentistry?
Cosmetic dentistry is just that – dentistry focused on the cosmetics, or looks, of a smile. The primary goal of cosmetic dentistry is simply to improve the appearance of a smile, rather than its functionality (that said, it’s often a case of killing two birds with one stone – more on that later).
This means treatments that look at the color, size, and shape of teeth. Many cosmetic dentists are even branching out to things like cosmetic injectables.
A smile makeover, for example, could involve teeth whitening to recolor the teeth, veneers to reshape the teeth, and even a small course of botox to remove fine lines and wrinkles from around the mouth.
2. What is the Difference Between a Cosmetic Dentist and Other Types of Dentists?
As mentioned above, cosmetic dentistry is primarily focused on the look of a smile. A cosmetic dentist is a dentist who specializes in those procedures.
How does that compare to other types of dentists?
- A general dentist covers a broad range of dental treatments. Their primary focus is on the healthy upkeep and maintenance of teeth. You’d go to a general dentist to get your twice-a-year checkup and clean, oral x-rays, fillings, etc. General dentists can also do some basic cosmetic and restorative work, such as whitening, fillings, veneers, crowns, and tooth extractions.
- A cosmetic dentist focuses on cosmetic treatments. These include teeth whitening, crowns, veneers, orthodontics using Invisalign, and maybe even cosmetic injectables.
- A prosthodontist is a specialist who does complex tooth restorations.
- An orthodontist specializes in realigning and reshaping the teeth and jaws with braces and aligners. You can get braces and Invisalign from a general dentist; cosmetic dentists will gladly offer Invisalign. But for complex cases or more specialized brace types like lingual braces, you go to an orthodontist.
3. What Are Examples of Cosmetic Dentistry?
The most well-known example of cosmetic dentistry would be the “Hollywood smile” – bleached-white, perfectly even teeth beaming out at you from countless movies and magazine covers.
How much work is needed to achieve this smile will depend on the starting condition of your teeth. If you have otherwise straight, even, esthetic teeth, then you just need a good dose of teeth whitening.
For others, a Hollywood smile can involve a complete range of cosmetic treatments:
- Teeth whitening
- Gum reshaping
All to achieve that perfect smile.
Teeth whitening changes the color of your teeth to a whiter, brighter shade. You can select exactly how many levels brighter you want to go. Some people want that ultra-white Hollywood smile. That may not look natural in person (your teeth would never look like that even in the best conditions), but it’s an appealing cosmetic look.
Gum reshaping involves cutting away a small part of the gum around your teeth to improve the look of teeth. This is typically used for people with “gummy” smiles, where they show a lot of gum and little teeth when smiling.
Veneers are thin layers of porcelain or composite resin that are fixed to teeth to change their shape and color. You can think of them as permanent fake nails for the teeth.
Invisalign or fast braces can be administered by a cosmetic dentist to straighten the front teeth. Anything more than that should be done by a general dentist or orthodontist.
4. Are Cosmetic Dentistry Treatments Completely Aesthetic?
Cosmetic dentistry treatments are not completely aesthetic, no.
Many treatments are. Teeth whitening, for example, has no functional benefit – you’re simply removing stains from your teeth.
Crowns and veneers can be both cosmetic and functional. They allow damaged teeth to be used more effectively while improving their look.
Orthodontics is the perfect balance between cosmetics and function. Any realignment of the teeth is typically functional – helps the teeth sit better together, aiding chewing and biting. It’s also aesthetic – making the teeth nice and straight and not crooked.
5. What Are the Benefits of Cosmetic Dentistry?
The primary benefit of cosmetic dentistry is to improve your smile.
That might sound like a fairly minor – or worse, purely vain – thing, but as we said in the introduction, our smiles are important.
We notice smiles when we meet people. We remember nice smiles. They say a lot about us, whether we know it or not.
And instinctively, we know that smiling is an important social tool. Social smiling is one of the first skills babies learn, within the first 2-3 months of life. We smile at each other to build connections with one another long before we can walk or talk or even know what a smile is.
So it should come as no surprise that even as adults, a nice smile is an important thing. Being self-conscious about our smiles affects our mood and our ability to socialize. People who undergo cosmetic surgery, even if they were generally happy with their life before, report feeling less stressed, less anxious, more confident, and overall, happier.
Smiles are an important part of human social interaction. Whether it’s just a simple teeth whitening, or a complete smile makeover, looking after the esthetics – not just the function – of our smiles is incredibly important.
6. Will Cosmetic Dentistry Hurt?
Our top cosmetic dentist in San Diego was pretty straightforward about this one:
Not really, no.
Some cosmetic procedures can cause discomfort and sensitivity. Some people struggle with teeth whitening, for example, which is why there are so many teeth whitening options available. If you have really sensitive teeth, let your cosmetic dentist know so they can choose an appropriate whitening treatment for you.
Gum reshaping is done under a local anesthetic, often with a laser. It’s a quick procedure with minimal downtime and no real pain.
Teeth straightening can result in some discomfort, but it should not be painful.
On the whole, while some treatments can be a little uncomfortable for a short amount of time, they should not be painful.
7. Does Cosmetic Dentistry Improve Oral Health?
It can in some cases. A top cosmetic dentist in San Diego will always make sure the mouth is healthy before starting work, otherwise many cosmetic treatments won’t work properly. So for some people, the first step in cosmetic dentistry is to clean the mouth and realign teeth where necessary to ensure everything is in a good starting position.
Aside from that, some cosmetic treatments do have a functional component to them.
Veneers and crowns, for example, are ways of restoring chipped, cracked, or otherwise damaged teeth. Doing so allows these teeth to be used properly, preventing patients from putting too much strain on opposing teeth as they try to avoid their injured teeth. This, in turn, prevents more damage to more teeth.
However, veneers can be used in a way that serves no functional benefit – just reshaping a tooth, for example. And, as we said, there is no health benefit to teeth whitening.
If you have oral health concerns, you should first speak with a general dentist. They will be able to assess your oral health and refer you to the appropriate specialist, or fix the issue themselves.
8. Is Cosmetic Dentistry Expensive?
This question is a bit like “how long is a piece of string?”
Cosmetic dentistry can be quite expensive – or quite affordable. Since it covers such a large range of treatments, it depends on what you need.
For example, just teeth whitening is quite affordable. You can get a take-home whitening kit from your cosmetic dentist that’s very affordable, or spend around $1000 on in-chair, one-day whitening. The latter, though more expensive, often has payment plans available.
A smile makeover, where you combine many treatments – whitening, straightening, veneers, crowns, gum reshaping – to achieve a perfect smile or Hollywood smile, can be upwards of $10,000 or more depending on the state of your teeth when you start.
For many people, the best plan for major smile makeovers is to break down the process into steps and chip away at it bit by bit over a few years.
Your cosmetic dentist will gladly assess you and come up with a treatment plan.
9. Will Insurance Pay for Cosmetic Dentistry?
This depends on the treatment.
Purely cosmetic treatments, with no discernible medical benefit, will not be covered by insurance.
This includes things like teeth whitening or cosmetic injectables. They aren’t medically necessary, and so aren’t covered by insurance.
Orthodontics, crowns, veneers, bridges – anything that is both cosmetic and restorative can be covered by insurance, as the functional component can certainly be considered medically relevant.
If you visit the top cosmetic dentist in San Diego, they will let you know what treatments are covered under your insurance and which aren’t. This can help you plan and schedule treatments accordingly, such as starting with insurance-covered treatments and giving you time to save up for purely cosmetic procedures.
We have transparent pricing, which you can find here. If you’d rather contact us directly to find out more, or book a consultation, you can do so here. The best way to determine your treatment plan and cost is for us to sit down and talk with you.
10. Am I Too Old for Cosmetic Dentistry?
The short answer is no.
The longer answer is no, depending on the treatments and your overall health.
Nobody is too old to revitalize their smile! Teeth whitening, veneers, and even cosmetic injectables are totally fine for any adult of any age.
Some cosmetic treatments with strong restorative or surgical elements may be out of reach for some elderly patients. These are, however, few and far between.
Most cosmetic treatments are safe and suitable for patients of any age who want to change their smile into something new and fresh.
11. Is Cosmetic Dentistry Safe?
The short answer is yes.
Cosmetic dental procedures typically don’t require general anesthetic or major invasive surgical procedures. The risks of surgery associated with some procedures don’t exist with cosmetic treatments.
Great care and precision is used to ensure no harm is done to the structures of the mouth being worked on. While all medical treatments, even cosmetic ones, carry some element of risk, they are incredibly minor and rare for cosmetic dentistry.
12. How Do I Choose the Best Cosmetic Dentist?
When you’re looking for the top cosmetic dentist in San Diego, there are a few steps you can use to narrow down your list.
- Check existing reviews. Whether it’s on Google, Yelp, or other websites, see if you can find testimonials from real former patients. Word of mouth is the best advertisement any dentist will have – so if you’ve heard (good things) about a cosmetic dentist, it’s a good sign.
- Look at before and afters. Any good cosmetic dentist will proudly display their work on their website or online. If there aren’t any case studies to look at, contact them directly to request some. If they don’t provide any, it may be a good idea to look elsewhere.
- Book a consultation. This is the single best way to find the right cosmetic dentist. Book consults with several cosmetic dentists: explain your concerns, your desired outcomes, and even your budget. See how they react, what they suggest, and what they say. If you narrowed down a list of cosmetic dentists through the other channels, this is often the best way to make a tiebreaker.
If you’re looking for the top cosmetic dentist in San Diego, try Blyss Dental. Book your free consultation at Blyss Dental today to find out how we can help you achieve the perfect smile you’ve always dreamed of.