Cosmetic dentists are practitioners who center their practice on improving the attractiveness of patients’ smiles with improvements such as porcelain veneers, dental implants, and teeth reshaping. In comparison, general-practice dentists traditionally focus on preventative care and treating problems such as cavities. Of course, ethical cosmetic dentistry integrates its aesthetic treatment into the best overall care for patients’ dental health.
Finding a skilled, experienced cosmetic dentist can be complicated because technically any dentist can advertise themself as a cosmetic dentist. That’s because cosmetic dentistry isn’t a formal dental specialty recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA recognizes nine accredited dental specialties, such as endodontics, that require special postgraduate training after a general-dentistry degree. Further confusing the issue of who is a cosmetic dentist, general-practice dentists themselves often offer cosmetic procedures such as teeth whitening and teeth bonding.
But these factors don’t mean that specialized, trained cosmetic dentists aren’t available. Dentists still have the option to pursue post-graduate training courses and programs specializing in cosmetic dentistry at various educational institutes and through organizations such as the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) and the American Society of Dental Aesthetics. Some accredited general-dentistry schools also offer individual courses in cosmetic dentistry for post-doctoral study.
However, the AACD is widely recognized as the premier international provider of continuing education on the latest techniques and technologies in cosmetic dentistry. Its membership roster numbers 6,000-plus in 70 countries, including dental-health professionals, educators, and researchers. In addition to its general continuing-education membership, it offers a cosmetic-dentistry accreditation so rigorous that fewer than 350 dentists worldwide have completed it. Contact the AACD if you want to find one of these specially accredited members.
Many cosmetic-dentist practices and the AACD offer tips for evaluating which cosmetic dentist would best suit your needs and aesthetic goals. These tips include:
- What hands-on cosmetic-dentistry courses or other continuing education has the dentist participated in? Ask for a written summary of this continuing education and training. Is any of the training recent, showing that the dentist continues to improve his or her knowledge and skills in evolving cosmetic-dentistry technology?
- Research how long the dentist has specialized in cosmetic dentistry and how much experience she or he has gained in in the specific dental procedures you are interested in.
- Another important question: What percentage of the dentist’s practice is devoted to cosmetic-dentistry procedures as opposed to general dentistry?
- Does the cosmetic-dentistry practitioner offer examples of his or her work on patients’ mouths? (Such as before-and-after photos.)
- Is the practitioner willing to refer you to patients who’ve had previous work done by him as references?
- What dental equipment and technologies such as lasers does that particular cosmetic-dentistry practice employ? Are you interested in being treated with these new technologies? What particular benefit would they be to your particular dental issues and treatment goals?
- Do you know someone whose dental restorative work you admire? Inquire about their dentist. And in today’s Internet Age, dental-health consumers always have the option to search online reviews for feedback on cosmetic dentists in their local area.