The services your dentist provides may fall under more than one category, depending on the scope of the practice. Almost all dentists provide basic services such as exams, cleanings, and fillings. Many practices also offer treatments that fall under the category of either cosmetic or restorative dentistry. Knowing the difference between the two can help you to be a more informed consumer of dental care services.
Restoring What Time or Circumstances Has Taken Away
As its name implies, the term “restorative dentistry” refers to procedures that restore the functionality lost when teeth suffer damage or decay. The goal is to give the patient back his or her ability to eat a normal diet and perform other basic tasks. Some examples of restorative procedures include:
- Fillings: chances are good that you have at least one filling in your mouth already. They are used to resolve dental pain, prevent further damage to the tooth, and enable the patient to carry on with life as usual.
- Crowns: these are similar to fillings except that the treatment includes the placement of a protective cap atop the tooth. This serves a dual restorative and cosmetic purpose, improving the patient smile while protecting the tooth itself from further harm.
- Bridgework: this can be supported either by healthy natural teeth or by dental implants. The goal is to restore multiple teeth at the same time.
- Dentures: this has long been the accepted method for restoring a large number of teeth, up to and including all of them. Traditional dentures are comfortable, attractive, and generally effective. Implant-supported dentures offer increased stability and ease-of-use over adhesive versions.
Cosmetic Dentistry: Making Smiles More Beautiful
Sometimes your teeth are in basically good shape but have lost a bit of their sparkle over the years. Other people already have beautiful teeth but are looking for a more symmetrical smile or other aesthetic improvements. The task of the cosmetic dentist is to provide these benefits.
Cosmetic dentistry is a huge field with multiple subspecialties. Examples of common cosmetic procedures include:
- Teeth whitening: this is distinct from teeth cleaning in that its primary purpose is to make the teeth whiter, as its name implies. A single whitening treatment can make a faded smile fantastic. Multiple treatments can transform the person’s appearance.
- Contouring: this is a great way to give the person’s smile a more consistent and symmetrical appearance. The dentist gently shapes the teeth, removing chips, unevenness, and other blemishes. The emphasis is on the patient’s comfort and well-being throughout the treatment.
- Veneers: these are micro-thin porcelain enhancers that bond directly to the front of the patient’s teeth. They give the smile a bright, brilliant appearance that’s sure to please.
- Cosmetic bonding: this is a relatively simple procedure that applies small amounts of tooth-colored dental putty to imperfections in the patient’s teeth. It can be used to erase the evidence of cracks, chips, and small fractures.
Whether you need cosmetic or restorative treatment or some combination of the two is a matter between you and your dentist. Discuss your options with him or her during your upcoming appointment. You’ll soon be on your way to better teeth and a brighter smile.
About the Author
Dr. Neil Flenniken is a skilled dentist with specialized training in both cosmetic and restorative procedures. He is a member of the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. You can reach his office online or by calling(703) 714-7374.