What problems can cosmetic dentistry solve? Procedures and costs

Nichole McKenna

Written by Nichole McKenna DDS, Matthew Stewart DDS, Peter March DDS

A cosmetic dentist is an expert in enhancing the appearance of your smile. He or she performs procedures focusing on what the mouth looks like rather than it’s health state. These alterations do not treat oral diseases.

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Cosmetic dentist vs. other dental specialists

The most important difference between cosmetic dentists and other dental specialists is that the procedures are elective. They are not medically necessary and performed at the request of the patient.

Many dental professionals offer cosmetic procedures alongside treatment of oral issues. Prosthodontics and orthodontics in particular may be a combination of functional and aesthetic concerns. A lot of cosmetic treatment has to do with your gums, so you may need liaison with a periodontist as well.

Cosmetic dentistry procedures

Cosmetics is not a formal specialty recognized by the ADA. It is rather a branch of dentistry. Cosmetic procedures focus on improving the look of the gums and teeth. Since such treatment is not designed to fix any health issues, it usually does not qualify for insurance coverage.


Professional teeth whitening

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Tooth whitening is the most common of cosmetic dental procedures. It targets stains caused by smoking, food, coffee, tea, and red wine. Bleaching often boosts patients’ confidence levels greatly.

Whitening is fairly non-invasive. It usually involves a combination of LED light and a bleaching solution. The most common complaint is mild sensitivity that lasts about a day.

The cost of professional teeth whitening is often quite steep. There are also take-home bleaching options that are not immediate and can be more cost-effective for the patient.


Porcelain dental veneers

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Veneers are most commonly composite, laminate, or porcelain. They can be placed on a single tooth as well as on a full set of dentition. Veneers are bonded to the surface of the tooth and the process is irreversible. This is because a part of the tooth has to be shaved off to accommodate the restoration.

This option is great for teeth that are discolored, chipped, uneven, or gapped. The whole thing usually takes about two appointments. The cost of veneers is affordable in comparison to other solutions such as orthodontics.

Restorative work

Full mouth dental implants lower arch

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Restorative work is focused on functionality and improved aesthetics are sort of a “side effect”. Still, many patients look forward to their looks being improved first of all.

Most of these solutions replace missing teeth or repair ones that are badly damaged. The former include crowns, implants, bridges, and dentures. The latter include fillings and inlays. It’s best to consult with a cosmetic dentist who is also a prosthodontist.

Composite bonding

Bonding is done when the shape or size of the patient’s teeth needs to be altered. After a professional cleaning, the dentist applies small amounts of dental composite. It makes dentition appear straight and uniform. The procedure is recommended for small changes.

Composite looks just like enamel and dentin. It is hardened with high-intensity light and polished. This is a popular solution for teeth that are slightly chipped, fractured, broken, too thin, or too short. Discoloration can also be evened out this way.

Enamel shaping

Enamel shaping is the opposite of bonding. It involves removing small amounts of enamel on teeth that look crooked, sharp, or too wide/long. This procedure makes the smile proportionate and even.

This is one of the most minor procedures a cosmetic dentist performs. It is practically painless and requires no anesthetic. You may feel slight pressure. There is no healing period. Patients may eat and drink after this procedure.

Periodontal plastic surgery

This procedure is basically reshaping the gums. Cosmetic dentists use lasers or cutting tools to alter the appearance of the soft tissues around the teeth. This can make teeth appear longer, shorter, or rounder, as needed.

Recontouring is a cosmetic dental surgery performed when the gums have too much volume (a gummy smile) or are receding. In the second case tissue can be sourced from the palate or a donor.


What are the benefits of cosmetic dentistry?

The most important advantage of cosmetic dentistry is, of course, improved appearance. Nonetheless, many procedures also prevent future issues or fix ones to do with functionality. This includes crowns, implants, bridges, and dentures.

What is the average cost of cosmetic dentistry?

Cosmetic dentistry tends to be expensive. The cheapest procedure mentioned in this article is most likely enamel shaping. Still, it costs about $50-$300 per tooth. Dental implants belong to the most expensive dental procedures. A full mouth may cost as much as $28,000.

You can optimize your spending using the best dentist near me service. We will help you choose a specialist who will accept your preferred payment method.

Is cosmetic dentistry covered under dental insurance?

It is very rare for insurance policies to cover any procedure that is purely cosmetic. If you are thinking of tooth restoration, you might be reimbursed for some of the costs. This is because those procedures also improve the functionality of your smile.

You may want to consider a dental savings plan. Those cover all types of treatment, no matter what the motivation is.

What is the best cosmetic dental procedure?

“Best” is difficult to define, but the most common and least invasive is teeth whitening. It also doesn’t take a long time, so you can have a smile makeover quickly.


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  2. Cosmetic dentistry - LWW
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  5. Treatment of gummy smile: Gingival recontouring with the containment of the elevator muscle of the upper lip and wing of nose. A surgery innovation technique - NCBI