Cosmetic dentistry is generally used to refer to any dental work that improves the appearance (though not necessarily the function) of a person’s teeth, gums and/or bite. It primarily focuses on improvement dental aesthetics in color, position, shape, size, alignment and overall smile appearance. Many dentists refer to themselves as “cosmetic dentists” regardless of their specific education, specialty, training, and experience in this field. This has been considered unethical with a predominant objective of marketing to patients. The American Dental Association does not recognize cosmetic dentistry as a formal specialty area of dentistry. However, there are still dentists that promote themselves as cosmetic dentists.
Cosmetic dentistry may involve:
- The addition of a dental material to teeth or gums – examples: bonding, porcelain veneers (laminates), crowns (caps), gum grafts
- The removal of tooth structure or gums – examples: enameloplasty, gingivectomy
- Neither adding nor removing dental materials, tooth structure or gums – examples: teeth whitening (bleaching), laser whitening, gum depigmentation
- Straightening of teeth accompanied by improvement in appearance of face – orthodontics
In the past, dental fillings and other tooth restorations were made of gold, amalgam and other metals—some of which were veneered with porcelain. Now, dental work can be made entirely of porcelain or composite materials that more closely mimic the appearance of natural tooth structure. These tooth colored materials are bonded to the underlying tooth structure with resin adhesives. Unlike silver fillings (amalgams) they are entirely free of mercury. Cosmetic dentistry has evolved to cover many new procedures and new dental materials are constantly introduced.