Cosmetic Dentistry: Overview, Types of Procedures & Insurance

What is Cosmetic Dentistry?

Cosmetic dentistry, also known as esthetic dentistry, has not been clearly defined by the American Dental Association (ADA). However, dentists define it as the method of dentistry that improves a patient’s smile and self-image. Having a beautiful smile and strong teeth are essential for many reasons—aesthetically and in relation to overall health.

An attractive smile, or lack thereof, affects your oral health. In addition, self-confidence and how the world perceives you on the outside are also impacted. This is because a person’s smile is usually the first feature anyone notices.

Esthetic procedures include dental veneers and teeth whitening. On the other hand, dental crowns, dental bridges, dental bonding, dental implants, inlays and onlays, and dentures are all restorative dental treatments.

Who Benefits From Cosmetic Procedures?

The most common age groups that undergo cosmetic dental procedures are those between 31 to 40 years old (38 percent) and 41 to 50 years old (32 percent). Ninety-six percent of esthetic dentistry patients are also female.

Why Choose Cosmetic Dentistry?

Cosmetic dentistry procedures can correct misshaped, chipped, discolored, and missing teeth.

There are simple and sophisticated solutions for fixing a smile, depending on the patient’s desired outcome. According to experts, there are many reasons why an individual is unhappy with their smile. For example, the most common causes are tooth discoloration, teeth crowding, and teeth gaps. Dental veneers are the most requested treatment because they can correct all of the cosmetic issues listed above.

It’s important to look for dentists who are qualified in the specific area of treatment you are seeking. For example, all dentists learn cosmetic techniques in traditional dental schools.

Although, some dentists invest more time and money into continuing education for cosmetic dentistry, which makes them better equipped than someone who hasn't made the same investment. So, finding a dentist that focuses on cosmetic procedures ensures you will receive the highest quality treatment.

Types of Cosmetic Procedures

Esthetic dental treatments are commonly referred to as “smile makeovers.” In particular, there are a few cosmetic procedures to choose from based on individual needs:

teeth whitening
Teeth Whitening

Whitening treatments include over-the-counter treatments, in-office whitening treatments, and intensive treatment using custom impressions. Although, “Kör Whitening” is the most effective in-office treatment, according to dental experts. In short, it is a multi-step whitening treatment that requires a minimum of two weeks to see results.

veneer
Veneers

Veneers improve the appearance of chipped, discolored, misshapen, or crooked teeth. There are also a few different types of veneers to choose from. For example, porcelain veneers bond to the teeth using a special cement and require recontouring. On the other hand, prepless veneers do not require recontouring before placement.

Veneers provide excellent aesthetic results, so many patients prefer them over teeth whitening products and orthodontic treatments.

braces
Braces and Clear Aligners

Braces and clear aligners are orthodontic treatments, but they are also considered cosmetic by nature. This is because most people who invest in braces or clear aligners, such as Invisalign, do so to improve their appearance. In some cases, braces or clear aligners may be medically necessary.

Both devices put pressure on your teeth, which moves them into the correct positions over time. Children and teens often get traditional metal braces, while adults typically get clear braces or aligners because they are less noticeable.

receding gums
Gum Contouring

Gum contouring is another cosmetic procedure that changes the shape of your gums. During the procedure, a dentist cuts away any excessive gum tissue that is causing a "gummy" smile. A gummy smile is when a person has too much gum tissue above their top teeth. Contouring can also be used to restore exposed teeth caused by receding gum tissue.

Questions to Ask Your Cosmetic Dentist

How long have they been practicing?

Since cosmetic dentistry is a branch of dentistry developed over time, it’s crucial to ensure a dentist has extensive experience in the industry. This experience also includes the number of years spent in dental school.

Is the dentist accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD)?

Many dentists are recognized by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). If so, this recognition is a positive sign that they are highly qualified to restore smiles the correct way.

Does Insurance Cover Cosmetic Dentistry?

Most cosmetic treatments aren’t covered by insurance because they are often elective. However, if the procedures are medically necessary, insurance companies will cover them.

  • Teeth Whitening — not covered by insurance
  • Veneers — not covered by insurance
  • Braces — may be partially covered by insurance, depending on age and insurance plan
  • Clear Aligners — may be partially covered by insurance, depending on age and insurance plan
  • Gum Contouring — may be partially covered by insurance if the procedure is needed for oral health reasons

Looking for affordable dental care? Save money on common dental services — including teeth cleanings, x-rays, and restorative treatments — today. Learn More

Resources

Rinzler, Carol Ann. The Encyclopedia of Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery. Facts On File, 2009.

Blue Ocean Publishing Group. The Million Dollar Smile, Changing Lives with Cosmetic Dentistry. 2018.

Kohli, Kent D. Smile Beautifully!: The Ultimate Consumer's Guide to Cosmetic Dentistry. 2016.

“Cosmetic Dentistry.” Dental Economics, www.dentaleconomics.com/science-tech/article /16395138/cosmetic-dentistry.

Updated on: May 22, 2020
Author
Alyssa Hill
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Medically Reviewed: September 2, 2019
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Lara Coseo
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