Cosmetic Dentist VS General Dentist

understand the different types of dentists and the services they perform

November 15, 2023 Written By: Joyce Kahng, DDS

There are a lot of reasons to visit the dentist. In order to determine which kind of dentist to visit, you first need to understand the different types of dentists and the services they perform.

Most dentists perform cosmetic dentistry services, general dentistry services, or both. But what are cosmetic dentists and general dentists? What services do they perform? And which type of dentist is right for you?

What is a Cosmetic Dentist?

A cosmetic dentist is a general dentist that provides treatments intended to improve the aesthetic appearance of a patient’s smile. While the results of cosmetic dentistry may provide functional benefits, they generally aren’t the primary reason for the service.  Cosmetic dentistry is not a recognized specialty like Endodontics and Orthodontics.  Rather, it is a narrowed scope or focus of a general dentist.

What Services Do Cosmetic Dentists Perform?

There are a lot of different types of services that cosmetic dentists perform. Some of these services include:

Dental Bonding

Dental bonding is a tooth restoration method that involves the placement of resin on the tooth of a patient that is hardened and shaped. This form of repair is a great option for patients that have very minor cosmetic damage to their teeth that may include cracks, chips, discoloration, and other minor issues.

Dental Veneers

Dental veneers also help with the restoration of teeth. With that said, dental veneers involve a more advanced placement procedure than dental bonding. Dental veneers are intended to replace a larger portion of the crown of a tooth. They involve the secure placement of a prosthetic and involve slight reshaping of the tooth to place (which is permanent). Dental veneers are an excellent option for more advanced cracks and chips, discoloration, and other cosmetic concerns.

Teeth Whitening

Professional teeth whitening involves either at-home or in-office treatment for the whitening of a patient’s teeth. While at-home solutions are available over the counter, the in-home treatments provided by a cosmetic dentist are more advanced. Professional teeth whitening ensures a stunning, balanced smile. If you have teeth that have yellowed over time, teeth whitening may be a great solution to meet your needs.

Dental Crowns

Dental crowns can be used either for cosmetic or functional purposes. A dental crown involves the reshaping of a tooth and the placement of a prosthetic that replaces the entire crown of the tooth. Dental crowns are a good option for teeth that have crowns that have been severely compromised in some way. Your dentist will do what they can to save as much of your tooth as possible. A dental crown is generally the last available option before extraction. With that said, dental crowns can be made to look extremely similar to a natural tooth and are made with long-lasting, durable materials.


Orthodontic treatment involves the use of braces or removable aligners to adjust the placement of a patient’s teeth. Over time, braces and aligners shift teeth until they are straight and in proper alignment. Your dentist will let you know whether braces or invisible aligners are right to meet your needs.

What is a General Dentist?

A general dentist is a dental expert that focuses mostly on functional services that are required for ongoing oral health. It’s important to see a general dentist every six months for a cleaning and checkup. Ongoing maintenance and care are key to proper oral health.

What Services Do General Dentists Perform?

General dentists provide a wide variety of services. Some of these services include:

Dental Cleanings and Checkups

When people think of general dentistry, one of the first things that pop into their heads is generally dental cleanings and checkups. These services are extremely important, as they allow your dentist to professionally clear away plaque and tartar buildup, while also checking your teeth, gums, and jawbone for any oral health concerns that need to be addressed. If they find anything, your dentist can put a treatment plan in place to address the issue.


If you end up with a cavity, your dentist will first clean the tooth to remove bacteria and stop the decay. From there, they will place a filling. A filling is a material (generally composite resin, amalgam, ceramic, or gold) that is used to provide strength and ensure the integrity of the tooth. It fills the cavity and prevents further tooth decay or infection.


If your tooth is damaged or decayed beyond repair, you may require a tooth extraction. This involves the dentist either using a special tool to remove the tooth or performing surgery. Surgeries are generally performed if there is a break below the gumline or for the removal of wisdom teeth.

Root Canals

A root canal is a procedure that involves the dentist clearing infection from the root, cleaning the area, then closing the tooth back up with a filling. If tooth decay has gotten bad enough it will reach the root of the tooth and infect it. That’s why it’s important to have a cavity taken care of as soon as possible.

Traditional Dental Bridge

A traditional dental bridge involves the reshaping of natural teeth to hold a prosthetic in place that fills a gap between teeth. This improves not only the aesthetic appearance of the patient’s smile but also provides bite support.


Dental implants are titanium rods that are placed in the jawbone of a patient to hold a prosthetic in place. For a single tooth, as little as one implant is required. For an implant bridge or denture, multiple implants may be required. Implants are extremely strong and secure. This allows the patient to bite and chew their favorite foods without concern. The implants themselves can also last a lifetime (the prosthetic will need to occasionally be switched out, though).

Booking Your Appointment

You now have a better idea of the services that cosmetic and general dentists provide. Look for a dentist in your area that specializes in the type of service that you require. If you have insurance, it’s best to try and find a dentist that is in-network. You can then reach out and book an appointment for your visit.

Smile Smarter,
Dr. Joyce

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