Cosmetic Dentistry

Cosmetic Dentistry: Overview Image

Cosmetic dentistry is becoming a huge trend in the United States. Unlike traditional dentistry that focuses on oral hygiene, cosmetic dentistry focuses on improving the appearance of a patient’s mouth, teeth and smile.

Cosmetic Dentistry Procedures

The following procedures are some of the more popular types of cosmetic dentistry procedures:

  • Bonding is used to repair decayed, chipped, fractured or discolored teeth. It’s also used to close spaces between teeth. Bonding can be done in one session, lasting about 30 minutes to an hour. It doesn’t require any anesthesia and is not painful. Dentists recommend that patients who have undergone bonding don’t eat or drink anything 48 hours after the procedure to ensure the resin properly bonds with treated teeth.
  • Dental implants are artificial tooth replacements to combat tooth loss. The procedure takes multiple sessions, and there is a lot of necessary preparation before the procedure ever takes place. The whole process can take over six months to ensure all is working well. The recovery time varies based on the type of dental implants.
  • Dental veneers are porcelain or resin moldings bonded to the front of teeth to mask discoloration, cracks or chips in teeth. The procedure requires up to three sessions for planning, preparation and bonding, all of which usually take place over six weeks. The dental veneer procedure doesn’t require anesthesia. Ceramic veneers require that you have a mold taken. There is an adjustment time of up to two weeks for the new veneers.
  • Teeth whitening lightens teeth and removes stains and discoloration. The procedure takes 30 to 90 minutes, requiring at least two or three sessions with your dentist depending on the level of discoloration or how white you want your teeth to be. On some occasions, you will need to do more than in-office procedures, and home treatment may be necessary. In this case, the dentist makes custom mouthpieces for you, and you fill the mouthpieces at home with gels. No pain or recovery time is associated with teeth whitening procedures. However, your dentist will probably require a follow up visit to ensure your gums weren’t irritated by the teeth whitening.

Who Should (and Should Not) Get Cosmetic Dentistry

In general, almost any healthy adult can get cosmetic dentistry. However, certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer and periodontal disease, may require extra considerations.

Smokers are one group that may be advised against cosmetic dentistry procedures. The reason for this is that smokers are at risk for gum disease and loss of bone structure. In the case of dental implants, healthy bone structure is essential for successful implants. Trying dental implants on unhealthy gums will only cause the procedure to fail.

Similarly, while a smoker can get his teeth whitened, if he continues to smoke, the procedure will not last very long, as smoking will continue to stain the patient’s teeth.

Children are also not the best candidates for cosmetic dentistry procedures, such as dental implants. Dentists do not recommend the dental implant procedure until full bone growth has been completed.

Some factors to consider when deciding whether to undergo cosmetic dentistry are:

  • how long the procedure takes
  • how much recovery time is necessary
  • how much the procedure costs (and whether it’s covered by insurance)
  • how painful the procedure is
  • whether or not multiple sessions are needed.

Cosmetic Dentistry Cost

One of the primary considerations for most people considering cosmetic dentistry procedures is the cost. Prices can vary from procedure to procedure, and in most cases, insurance doesn’t cover the costs of cosmetic dentistry. While some insurance providers may cover part of the cost, particularly if the procedure helps restore the overall health of the mouth, cosmetic dentistry procedures that simply improve the appearance of the mouth will generally not be covered.

Here are some approximate costs for different cosmetic dentistry procedures:

  • Bonding: Cost varies depending on the type of restoration involved, and many times includes extra costs for additional time or equipment.
  • Dental implants: Simple implants range from $1000 to $5000, while full mouth implants range from $24,000 to $100,000.
  • Dental veneers: Porcelain veneers range from $900 to $2500 per tooth and last 10 to 15 years. Composite veneers range from $250 to $1500 per tooth and last 5 to 7 years.
  • Teeth whitening: Depending on the state of your teeth, these cosmetic procedures range from $400 to $900 and may have to be repeated.

Because all types of cosmetic dentistry involve considerable skill and advanced tools and technology, there is no way to avoid the costs or find free cosmetic dentistry.


Medline Plus (n.d.). Cosmetic Dentistry. Retrieved April 13, 2008, from the Medline Plus Web site.

Ranft, Lesly (2008). Cosmetic Dentistry. Retrieved April 13, 2008, from the Consumer Guide to Dentistry Web site.