Cosmetic Dentistry vs General Dentistry: How to Tell Which One You Need

Happy women before and after cosmetic dental care

When it comes to dental care, different branches of dentistry focus on specific aspects. Two primary branches are cosmetic dentistry and general dentistry. While both aim to improve oral health, they have different focus areas.

In this blog post, we will explore the differences between cosmetic and general dentistry, helping you determine which suits your needs.

What Is General Dentistry

General dentistry, often headed by a family dentist, focuses on maintaining good oral health and hygiene. Regular dentists have the qualifications and training to diagnose and treat oral health issues like tooth decay and gum diseases and conduct root canals and regular dental check-ups. Their practice aims to safeguard overall oral health and prevent the development of serious dental health issues.

When Do You Need General Dentistry?

You would need services from a general dentist in the following situations:

  • Routine Dental Check-Ups. You should visit a general dentist at least twice a year for routine check-ups and cleanings. These visits help maintain good oral health and can prevent dental issues from becoming severe.

  • Tooth Decay or Cavities. If you are experiencing tooth pain or sensitivity, it may be due to decay or cavities. A general dentist can diagnose and treat these conditions.

  • Gum Diseases. General dentists can diagnose and treat early-stage gum diseases like gingivitis. More advanced cases may be referred to a periodontist.

  • Teeth Restoration. If you have broken, chipped, or missing teeth, a general dentist can provide restorative treatments like fillings, crowns, bridges, or dentures.

  • Cosmetic Procedures. For aesthetic improvements like teeth whitening or veneers, a general dentist can help enhance your smile.

  • Orthodontic Concerns. While orthodontists specialize in aligning teeth and jaws, general dentists can often identify orthodontic issues and refer you to a specialist.

  • Oral Health Education. General dentists advise patients on best practices for oral hygiene, diet, and other aspects of dental care.

What Is Cosmetic Dentistry? 

On the other hand, cosmetic dentistry focuses on the aesthetic appearance of your teeth, gum, and bite. Cosmetic dentists undergo additional training after regular dental schools, focusing on cosmetic treatments. This type of dentistry deals with the appearance of teeth, from dental veneers, teeth whitening, and dental bonding to gum contouring and even dental crowns and dentures. 

What Is Considered Cosmetic Dentistry?

Here are the dental treatments commonly performed by cosmetic dentists:

  • Teeth Whitening. This is one of the most basic cosmetic dentistry procedures. Dentists can perform teeth whitening in the office or provide a system to use at home.

  • Dental Veneers. Veneers are thin shells made from porcelain or composite material. They are custom-made and cemented to the front side of the tooth. Veneers can change the color and shape of teeth.

  • Dental Bonding. In this procedure, a tooth-colored, putty-like resin is applied to the tooth and hardened with an ultraviolet or laser light, bonding the material to the tooth. The dentist then trims, shapes, and polishes it.

  • Dental Crown. A crown, also known as a cap, fits over and replaces the entire decayed or damaged tooth above the gum line, restoring its shape, size, strength, and appearance.

  • Inlays and Onlays. Also known as indirect fillings, inlays and onlays made from gold, porcelain, or composite materials are used to fill decayed or damaged teeth.

  • Dental Implants. Dental implants are used to replace teeth after tooth loss. The dentist inserts a small titanium screw into the jaw at the site of the missing tooth, which serves as the support for a crown.

  • Orthodontics. Treatments like braces or aligners are used to correct teeth alignment and bite-related issues.

  • Composite Fillings. Unlike traditional silver fillings, these are designed to match the natural teeth and are used for restoring decayed teeth.

How to Choose Between a Cosmetic Dentist and a General Dentist

To determine whether you need cosmetic dentistry or general dentistry, consider the following factors:

  • Oral Health Concerns. General dentistry is the best option if you’re experiencing oral health issues like tooth decay, gum diseases, or damaged teeth. General dentists are trained to diagnose and treat these conditions, ensuring the health of your teeth and gums.
  • Aesthetic Appearance. If you’re more concerned about the appearance of your smile, cosmetic dentistry might be the right choice for you. Cosmetic dentists specialize in treatments that enhance the aesthetic appeal of your teeth, such as dental veneers, teeth whitening, and orthodontic treatment for misaligned teeth.
  • Dental Goals. Assess your specific dental goals. Are you looking for a beautiful smile makeover? Do you want to fix crooked or damaged teeth? If your goals revolve around improving the appearance of your teeth, cosmetic dentistry can help you achieve them.
  • Overall Oral Health. Remember that oral health is not just about aesthetics. It plays a crucial role in your overall well-being. General dentistry focuses on maintaining the health of your teeth and gums, preventing future problems, and addressing any existing issues to ensure optimal oral function.

Choosing the Right Dental Practice

  • Qualifications and Experience. Check your potential dentist’s qualifications, certifications, and professional experience. You want to ensure that the dentist has adequate knowledge and expertise in their field.
  • Services Provided. Look at the range of services the dental practice provides. Are they equipped to handle your specific needs? Some clinics specialize in certain treatments or care for specific age groups.
  • Clinic and Technology. The facility itself can tell you a lot about the practice. A modern, clean, and well-equipped clinic equates to good service. Does the dentist use the latest dental technology?
  • Reputation and Reviews. Take time to read online reviews or ask for recommendations from friends, colleagues, or family. This can give you an insight into patient satisfaction and the clinic’s reputation.
  • Emergency Services. Dental issues can arise unexpectedly. It’s, therefore, important to know if the dental practice provides emergency services.
  • Dental insurance. Does the dentist work with your insurance provider? It’s important to know this information up-front to avoid any surprises with billing later on.
  • Comfort Level. Always consider your comfort during dental visits. You want to feel relaxed and be able to communicate freely with your dentist.
  • Location and Operating Hours. Choose a dental practice that is convenient to where you live or work and with scheduling times that work with your schedule.
  • Courtesy and Professionalism. The dentist and staff should treat you with respect, answer all your questions patiently, and explain proposed dental treatments fully.
  • Cost. It’s important to know the cost of services. Ensure the charges are reasonable and comparable to those of other dentists around the area.
  • Personal Preferences. Lastly, you might have personal preferences, such as a preference for a male or female dentist or a dentist who speaks a certain language. Make sure the dental office can also cater to these needs.

Cosmetic Dentist Vs. Orthodontist

While cosmetic dentists focus on improving the appearance of teeth and gums, they may also have the training and experience to perform basic treatments for cosmetic orthodontics. However, their scope of orthodontics practice is usually limited compared to that of an orthodontist. If cosmetic dentists have received the appropriate training, they can offer treatments like Invisalign or other forms of clear aligner therapy for minor tooth movements. However, an orthodontist would be the best professional to consult for more complex issues related to the alignment of teeth and jaws.

Orthodontists are specialists who have completed additional years of training, after earning their dental degree, specifically in orthodontics. They have extensive knowledge and expertise in managing tooth movement (orthodontics) and guiding facial development (dentofacial orthopedics). 

It’s important to note that while all orthodontists are dentists, not all dentists are orthodontists. If you’re considering orthodontic treatment, it’s always a good idea to consult an orthodontist to understand all available options and ensure you receive the most appropriate care.

Are Braces Cosmetic or Medical?

Braces can be both cosmetic and medical, depending on the individual’s specific situation.

On the one hand, braces are often used to correct misaligned teeth or an improper bite, which can cause a variety of health issues. These can include difficulty in cleaning teeth, speech difficulties, chewing problems, and increased wear and tear on the enamel. In these cases, braces would be considered a medical necessity.

On the other hand, braces are also commonly used for cosmetic purposes. If someone is unhappy with the appearance of their smile due to crooked or crowded teeth, braces can help to straighten the teeth and improve the overall aesthetics of the smile. It’s also worth noting that even when braces are used primarily for cosmetic reasons, they can still have health benefits. Straighter teeth are easier to clean, which can reduce the risk of cavities and gum disease.

Are Dentures Considered Cosmetic?

Dentures can serve both functional and cosmetic purposes. They are typically used to replace missing teeth, which is crucial not only for aesthetic reasons but also for proper oral function.

From a functional perspective, dentures help patients chew food effectively and maintain proper speech. They also prevent facial sagging by providing support for the lips and cheeks, maintaining the structure of the face. From a cosmetic perspective, dentures improve the appearance of the smile by replacing missing teeth. They can be designed to look very natural, helping to restore confidence in those who might be self-conscious about their missing teeth.

However, keep in mind that whether dentures are considered cosmetic may depend on individual dental insurance plans. Some insurance companies may cover dentures under restorative care, while others may consider them cosmetic if they’re not deemed medically necessary.

Who Does Veneers, Dentists or Orthodontists?

Veneer treatment is generally performed by a cosmetic dentist. An orthodontist is a dental specialist who focuses primarily on the alignment of teeth and jaws using braces, Invisalign, and other orthodontic appliances. While there may be overlaps in the services provided by these two types of dentists, it’s crucial to choose the right professional based on your specific needs.  

PK Cosmetic and Family Dentistry: Your Go-To Dentist for Cosmetic and General Dental Treatments

Choosing between a cosmetic dentist and a general dentist depends on your dental needs. At PK Cosmetic and Family Dentistry, we have dentists who specialize in these areas. Whether you need a simple dental cleaning, a cosmetic treatment like veneers, or more complex orthodontic care, we have the expertise and experience to provide comprehensive and personalized dental care.

Our dental professionals are gentle and experienced, and our staff are friendly and courteous. We also equipped our office with modern dental technology and amenities to ensure your comfort during dental visits. We understand that each patient is unique, so we provide individualized care to meet their specific needs.

Contact us now to schedule your consultation!

A sudden toothache or mouth trauma can disrupt your daily routine. A dental emergency can happen at any time, catching you off guard and causing pain and discomfort. While most emergencies are not life-threatening, some situations require immediate attention to prevent severe consequences.

This article will walk you through the common types of dental emergencies and their potential risks.

What Is a Dental Emergency?

A dental emergency can occur at any time and is often characterized by intense pain, broken teeth, loose teeth, or uncontrolled bleeding in the mouth. The type of damage could result from contact sports, a fall, or simply crunching down on a hard piece of food. 

Signs You Need Emergency Dental Treatment

Emergency dental care is essential in addressing severe oral health issues that can’t wait for a regular dental appointment. Here are some signs that you might need emergency dental help:

1. Severe Toothache

Intense tooth pain is a clear sign of a dental problem that requires immediate attention. A toothache can be caused by various issues, such as a cavity, an abscessed tooth, or gum disease. Ignoring a severe toothache can lead to further complications and potentially even tooth loss. Emergency dental care can relieve the pain and prevent further damage to the affected tooth.

But how can severe tooth pain be a life-threatening dental emergency?

In some cases, a severe toothache can be a sign of an abscessed tooth, which is a serious infection that can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. In rare cases, it can even lead to sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition.

2. Bleeding and Aching Gums

While some bleeding during brushing and flossing is normal, excessive or persistent bleeding could be a sign of gum disease or another dental health issue.

Bleeding and aching gums might not seem like a life-threatening condition at first, but they can potentially lead to serious health complications if left untreated. Bleeding and aching gums are usually symptoms of gum disease (gingivitis or periodontitis), which is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. If this infection is not treated promptly and properly, it can worsen over time and lead to tooth loss.

More seriously, gum infection can enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. This can lead to a systemic infection known as sepsis, which is a life-threatening condition. People with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to this risk.

3. Jaw Pain and Inflammation

Swelling or knots on your gums or swelling around the jaw could be signs of a serious infection, such as an abscess.

If jaw pain and inflammation are not promptly treated, they can lead to several serious complications. The severity and type of complications largely depend on the underlying cause of the jaw pain and inflammation. Here are some possible outcomes:

  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD): If left untreated, TMD can worsen over time, leading to chronic jaw pain, headaches, difficulty opening and closing the mouth, and even changes in the alignment of your teeth.
  • Dental Problems: Untreated jaw pain can also be indicative of dental issues like cavities, gum disease, or abscesses. If these conditions are not addressed, they can lead to tooth loss and potentially spread infection to other parts of the body.
  • Abscess or Infection: If the jaw pain and inflammation are due to an abscess or infection and it’s not treated, the infection can spread, leading to sepsis, a life-threatening condition.
  • Sinus Issues: If the source of the jaw pain is a sinus infection, leaving it untreated could lead to a chronic sinus infection or it could spread to the brain.
  • Heart Disease: Although less common, jaw pain could be a symptom of heart disease. If this is the case and it’s not treated promptly, it could result in serious cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack.
  • Osteomyelitis: This is an infection that travels through the bloodstream or spreads from nearby tissue to the bone. In severe cases, it can result in the need for surgery to remove sections of the infected bone.

In any case, prolonged jaw pain and inflammation should not be ignored. It’s crucial to seek emergency dental care to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.

4. Cracked or Broken Tooth

A broken tooth can cause significant pain and lead to infection or damage to the inside of the tooth if left untreated. Not treating a cracked or broken tooth promptly can lead to several serious complications.

Here are some potential outcomes:

  • Tooth Loss: The ultimate result for many who leave a cracked tooth untreated is the loss of the tooth. A cracked tooth can progressively worsen over time, eventually resulting in the loss of the tooth.
  • Further Damage: A fractured tooth is at a higher risk of further damage if left untreated. The tooth’s structural integrity can be compromised, leading to additional breaks or cracks.
  • Gum Damage and Periodontitis: When left untreated, a broken tooth can result in gum damage and permanent damage to the tooth. Advanced gum disease (periodontitis) can also develop, which could cause further oral health problems.
  • Infection: Untreated cracked teeth can lead to bigger dental problems such as oral disease and infection. Infections can spread to other parts of the body if not promptly addressed.
  • Pain and Discomfort: Cracked or broken teeth can cause significant pain and discomfort, especially when chewing food or when the tooth is exposed to hot or cold temperatures.
  • Treatment Complications: If a cracked tooth is left untreated for a long time, treatment may become more complex. For example, a simple filling may no longer be sufficient, and a root canal or even tooth extraction may be necessary.

5. Dental Abscess

An abscessed tooth is a serious infection that occurs at the root of a tooth or between the tooth and gums. It’s often painful and can cause fever and swelling.

If left untreated, here are some possible risks:

  • Spread of Infection: Dental abscesses can lead to the spread of the infection to other parts of the body, including the jaw, neck, and head. In severe cases, the infection can even reach the brain, leading to potentially life-threatening conditions such as a brain abscess.
  • Sepsis: A tooth abscess can lead to sepsis, a life-threatening response to infection that can cause tissue damage, organ failure, and death.
  • Tooth Loss: If the abscess is not treated, it can lead to severe tooth decay, and the affected tooth may break or fall out.
  • Sinus Involvement: An abscess in an upper back tooth can spread to the sinus cavity, causing sinusitis or a sinus infection.
  • Damage to Surrounding Bone: The infection can spread to the bones supporting the tooth, causing bone loss and further complicating treatment.
  • Endocarditis: Although rare, bacteria from a dental abscess can enter the bloodstream and infect the inner lining of the heart (endocarditis), which is a serious condition.

6. Knocked-Out Tooth Due to Trauma or Injury

A knocked-out tooth, also known as an avulsed tooth, is a tooth that has been dislodged from its socket in the jawbone due to dental trauma or injury. This can happen as a result of accidents, sports injuries, or a blow to the face.

If a knocked-out tooth is not treated immediately, the chances of successfully reimplanting the tooth decrease significantly. Here are some potential outcomes if an avulsed tooth is not treated promptly:

  • Tooth Loss: If the tooth cannot be reimplanted, it may be lost permanently. This can lead to problems with speech and eating and may require a dental implant or bridge to replace the missing tooth.
  • Bone Loss: The absence of a tooth can lead to bone loss in the jaw over time. This can affect the stability of surrounding teeth and alter the structure of the face.
  • Infection: If the wound where the tooth was knocked out is not properly cleaned and treated, it can lead to infection.
  • Damage to Adjacent Teeth: The trauma that caused the tooth to be knocked out can also damage adjacent teeth, potentially leading to further tooth loss if not addressed.

Immediate action can often save a knocked-out tooth. If possible, the tooth should be placed back into the socket as soon as possible. If this isn’t possible, the tooth should be kept moist in milk or a tooth preservation product until you can see a dentist. Seek emergency dental care immediately.

7. Facial Swelling

Facial swelling could indicate a serious infection, such as an abscessed tooth or salivary gland infection, and should be addressed immediately. A dental abscess is a pocket of pus that forms in the tooth or gums as a result of a bacterial infection. It can cause severe pain, fever, swelling in the face or cheek, tender lymph nodes, and even difficulty breathing or swallowing.

If left untreated, facial swelling results in:

  • Spread of Infection: Dental infections can spread to other parts of the face and body if not treated promptly. This can result in severe health issues such as cellulitis (a skin infection), osteomyelitis (bone infection), or even life-threatening conditions like sepsis (body-wide infection).
  • Gum Disease Progression: If the cause of the swelling is advanced gum disease, leaving it untreated can result in further deterioration of the gums, loss of teeth, and potentially, damage to the jawbone.
  • Abscess Formation: An untreated dental infection can result in an abscess, which is a pocket of pus that forms due to the infection. This can cause severe pain and further swelling and may require surgical intervention.
  • Pericoronitis: This condition is inflammation of the tissue surrounding a partially erupted tooth, usually a wisdom tooth. If left untreated, symptoms such as bad breath, pus, and facial swelling can worsen, and the condition can become chronic or recurrent.
  • Difficulty Eating and Speaking: Untreated dental conditions leading to facial swelling can cause discomfort and difficulty while eating and speaking.
  • Aesthetic Concerns: Prolonged facial swelling can alter your appearance and affect your self-esteem.

Preventative Measures to Avoid Dental Emergencies

Dental emergencies can happen at the most unexpected times. However, with some proactive measures, the risk can be minimized. Adhering to these preventive steps can maintain oral health and prevent a seemingly minor dental concern from escalating into a life-threatening dental emergency.

  • Regular Check-Ups and Cleaning: Routine dental exams and professional cleaning can detect potential oral health issues early, preventing them from worsening into a dental emergency.
  • Proper Hygiene and Oral Health Care: Regular brushing, flossing, and mouthwash can maintain oral hygiene and decrease the probability of dental infections or other dental concerns.
  • Use of Protective Gear: Wearing mouthguards or other orthodontic appliances can protect your teeth from trauma and potential dental injuries if you engage in contact sports.
  • Safe Eating Habits: Avoid biting into hard or overly chewy foods to reduce the chance of tooth crack or mouth trauma. This measure can be particularly essential for those with crowns, veneers, or dental implants.
  • Use Fluoride Toothpaste and Mouth Rinse: Fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay.
  •  Avoid Using Teeth as Tools: Don’t use your teeth to open bottles or packages, as this can lead to chipped or broken teeth.
  • Address Persistent Dental Pain or Changes: If you notice any persistent pain or changes in your teeth, gums, or mouth tissues, seek dental advice promptly. Early treatment can often prevent a minor problem from becoming a major one.

Address Dental Emergencies Promptly With PK Cosmetic and Family Dentistry

Dental emergencies are not something to be taken lightly. They can worsen, leading to serious health concerns beyond oral health. Always consult with a dental professional in emergencies and maintain regular check-ups to combat any early signs of dental concerns. It’s also crucial to be aware of the signs of a life-threatening dental emergency so you know when to seek emergency dental treatment.

Do you have any concerns, or are you experiencing an emergency toothache? Schedule an appointment with us today!

We have a skilled team of professionals experienced in handling dental emergencies promptly and efficiently. We prioritize your dental health and provide a comfortable environment for all our patients. Our modern technology and equipment allow us to provide quick and effective treatment for any dental emergency.