Restorative vs. Cosmetic Dentistry

Two patients walked into my office first thing this morning. I had never seen the first patient before, a nice woman who was visibly nervous about being in a dentist’s office. Her mouth stayed closed most of the time due to her embarrassment that she’d let her smile decay the way it had. I assured her that everything was fine and that she wasn’t alone in the condition/loss of function in her oral health.

The other patient was a sales representative whose teeth were, at first glance, relatively well maintained and healthy. At first, I had no idea why the latter patient came in, but later, as we talked, Mr. Salesman confided in me that he had always been self-conscious about his teeth, and he was hoping for a fuller, whiter, more polished smile.

Candidacy for Restorative Dental Work or Cosmetic Dental Work

As a dentist who practices general, restorative and cosmetic dentistry, I knew upon initial consultation what they each needed in regards to their oral health. One needed Restorative dental work and the other, Cosmetic dental work. The differences in candidacy for each of these treatments may not be known to the general public, but we’ll discuss why and what treatments often fall under each category.

Out of medical necessity and to restore function to her mouth, our first patient needed restorative dentistry. It wasn’t due to purely aesthetic issues or a general cleaning. It was to introduce her to the healthy smile and mouth she at one point possessed. And why did the sales person come in? To enhance the aesthetic appeal of his smile. He was requesting cosmetic dentistry.

Restorative Dentistry

To properly define it, restorative dentistry is the study, diagnoses, and treatment of diseases and structural issues in mouth. Restorative dentistry improves the function of your mouth, allowing their teeth and gums to work properly again— restoring them to whole. People often have restorative dental work after an accident or to correct long-term issues. The main point of restorative dental work is to restore function and health to one’s mouth.

An exciting additional benefit of restorative dentistry is that it not only improves the function of the teeth, but it can also enhance the aesthetics of a patient’s mouth, as well—contributing to their self-esteem and confidence levels. For example, when our first patient left after her comfortable treatment in our comprehensive care room, she smiled as widely as I’d ever seen. She certainly wasn’t beaming like that when he walked in.

Other examples of restorative procedures include:

● Fillings for cavities
● Root canals
● Crowns
● Implants
● Dentures
● Bridges

Cosmetic Dentistry

Cosmetic dentistry, on the other hand, is dental work that enhances the form or aesthetics of your teeth, gums, mouth, or smile. Cosmetic dentistry can do wonders for your self-esteem and confidence, empowering you to smile to your fullest, brightest capacity. But looks aren’t the only benefit of cosmetic dentistry: function along with form can be improved.

Examples of highly requested cosmetic dental procedures include:

● Orthodontics work like braces and Invisalign
● Professional teeth whitening
● Gum grafts
● Bonding
● Crowns

Although restorative and cosmetic dentistry are defined differently and their procedures are performed for different reasons, there is an overlap in treatment options and outcomes. The basis for what clarifies the selection of treatment is the overall health and function of the patient’s mouth. What all my patients have in common is that they want to be healthy and they want to feel their best. So, whether you come in for a restorative or a cosmetic procedure, you’ll arrive and exit knowing you’ll smile proud again.

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