What is Cosmetic Dentistry and How Does it Compare to Other Specialties?

Although cosmetic dentistry isn’t recognized as a specialty by the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards (NCRDSCB), it takes a special combination of technical expertise and an artistic eye to deliver superb outcomes. 

General dentists are often thought of as skilled technicians, while cosmetic dentists combine technical skills with artistry to create beautiful aesthetics that closely match a patient’s unique perception of a dream smile. 

In a nutshell, general dentistry focuses on preventing and treating oral disease, while the primary goal of cosmetic dentistry is to improve overall aesthetics. Cosmetic dentistry is the art and science of reshaping, aligning, and brightening teeth to create natural-looking, confident, and beautiful smiles. 

Of course, procedures like dental implants, crowns, and orthodontics also greatly improve a patient’s oral function and smile beauty. 

The following article provides a brief summary of top cosmetic dentistry procedures and six of the 12 dental specialties recognized by the NCRDSCB. The ultimate goal of this blog is to help readers decide when it’s appropriate to visit a specialist versus a general dentist. 

Common Cosmetic Dentistry Procedures

Although cosmetic dentistry isn’t recognized officially as a dental specialty, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry was established in 1984 to help advance the art and science of comprehensive cosmetic dentistry and encourage the highest standards of ethical conduct and responsible patient care.

While the scope of cosmetic dentistry has continually expanded over the years, these are a few of the most popular procedures. 

Teeth Whitening: Professional tooth whitening systems offer consistent, predictable, and excellent results that exceed most patients’ expectations. Whether you choose in-office treatment or at-home trays customized by your dentist to fit your mouth, professional-grade gel penetrates into tooth enamel to remove surface-level and deep stains. 

Veneers: Porcelain veneers are a minimally invasive option that restore natural beauty to teeth with cosmetic flaws. They can be used to conceal discolored or stained teeth, close small gaps, and hide small chips or worn-out tooth enamel. When veneers are created by skilled cosmetic dentists and dental lab technicians, they can truly transform a smile. 

Bonding: This procedure involves placing white composite resin onto or into a tooth. The resin can be sculpted, colored, and bonded onto teeth in order to restore existing damage, create a desired color and shape, or to replace existing failing fillings. 

Orthodontics: Traditional metal braces aren’t typically considered a cosmetic procedure because they’re obtrusive. But clear braces such as Invisalign straighten teeth discreetly to improve both oral function and smile beauty. In addition to being clear, removable, and more comfortable than traditional braces, it’s much easier to follow proper oral hygiene with Invisalign braces. 

A Brief Guide to Different Dental Specialties

General Dentistry 

A general dentist is a primary care dental provider involved in the diagnosis, treatment, care, and management of patients’ overall oral health. All practicing dentists complete a four-year dental school program and must pass a rigorous exam to become licensed to practice in a particular state. 

Although it can vary, general dentists offer composite fillings, crowns, bridges, simple tooth extraction, regular and deep teeth cleaning, and preventive care including oral cancer screenings and fluoride treatments. Some general dentists also offer dental implants, Invisalign, and customized mouth guards for sports, bruxism (teeth grinding/clenching), sleep apnea and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. 


An orthodontist is a specialist who diagnoses, prevents, and treats dental and facial irregularities to correctly align teeth and jaws. After dental school, an orthodontist receives three years of specialized training and must be licensed by the state board to practice orthodontics. Whether you’re considering clear aligners or traditional braces, orthodontists have the training, experience, and treatment options to deliver excellent results. 


The primary responsibility of endodontists is to diagnose tooth pain and perform procedures to resolve issues that impact the dental pulp or the nerve of the tooth. Endodontists complete an additional two or more years of training beyond dental school, focused on diagnosing tooth pain, root canal treatment, and other procedures relating to the interior of the tooth. While endodontists dedicate a substantial portion of their practice to root canal treatment, they also handle other endodontic treatments and surgeries, traumatic dental injuries that impact the pulp, and some offer dental implants. 

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery 

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are skilled in the surgical treatment of diseases, injuries, and defects involving both the functional and aesthetic aspects of the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. They complete four years of residency beyond dental school and six years if they’re concurrently acquiring a medical degree. In addition to extracting impacted wisdom teeth, oral surgeons treat misaligned jaws, tumors, and cysts of the jaw and mouth, perform dental implant surgery, and also treat traumatic jaw and facial injuries. 


Prosthodontists specialize in treating and handling dental and facial problems that involve restoring missing tooth and jaw structures. A prosthodontist completes three additional years of training after dental school. Essentially, prosthodontists are the recognized experts for anything that needs to be replaced in the mouth. They have advanced skills in cosmetic dentistry, dental implants, crowns, bridges, dentures, TMJ disorders, and more. 

When to Consider Cosmetic Dentistry and its Benefits 

Cosmetic dentists combine a keen eye for dental perfection with the skilled hands of an artist to deliver state-of-the-art cosmetic dentistry procedures, typically in a luxurious setting.

If you’re looking for dental treatments that focus primarily on transforming smile aesthetics, personalized and compassionate care, and a VIP level of attention, a cosmetic dentist is your best choice!

Change Your Smile and Life with Cosmetic Dentistry 

Now that you know more about how cosmetic dentistry stacks up against other dental specialties, you can make an informed decision about the best option to meet your needs.

If you decide to visit a cosmetic dentist, look at online reviews and choose a clinician with extensive training and experience coupled with an eye for smile beauty.

Dr. David A. Sabourin, D.D.S.

Dr. Sabourin relocated to San Diego from Ann Arbor, Michigan where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan. He graduated at the top of his class with High Honors from the University of Detroit School of Dentistry where he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.

Learn more about our team here.

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