How Is a Cosmetic Dentist Different Than a General Dentist?

cosmetic dentist Tucson, AZ

There are many different types of dentist, but the two most prominent types are the general dentist and the cosmetic dentist. Although both general and cosmetic dentists share the same base of knowledge and training, a cosmetic dentist's specialty is the overall appearance of a patient's teeth. For patients in need of dental work, understanding the subtle differences between general and cosmetic dentistry may help in choosing which dentist is right for them. 

What is a general dentist?

A general dentist is trained in the basics of oral health and is there to ensure a patient's teeth, gums and mouth are healthy. They normally supply preventative treatments such as routine teeth cleaning, can help diagnose oral diseases with the help of X-rays and oral exams and are skilled in determining treatment plans to help preserve oral health. 

They can also perform certain procedures aimed at maintaining oral health and addressing issues of pain and discomfort in the mouth:

  • Root canals
  • Filling cavities
  • Tooth extractions

A general dentist does not specialize in anything particular, but is proficient in the fundamentals involved of dental care. Their main goal is to prevent and treat oral disease, and they are usually considered the first line of defense when it comes to addressing oral health issues. This is why it is usually recommended all families and persons have a general dentist that they regularly visit in order to stay on top of their dental health. 

What is a cosmetic dentist?

A cosmetic dentist experiences the same fundamental education as a general dentist but has received extra training focused on caring for the physical appearance of a person's teeth. Besides looking after overall oral health, a cosmetic dentist prioritizes how the gums, teeth and mouth look, include issues of shape, size, color and alignment. This means that they may be more skilled than a general dentist when it comes to performing procedures such as teeth whitening, dental implants and veneers.

Additionally, a person may want to visit a cosmetic dentist if their general dentist is unfamiliar with a certain procedure or if they want the procedure to look as natural as possible. For example, a cosmetic dentist may fill a patient's cavity using the same technique as a general dentist, but will take care to choose a filling that closely matches the existing teeth.

Often, general dentists and cosmetic dentists work together in order to help their patients reach their dental goals. For example, a patient may visit their general dentist for a tooth extraction but then see a cosmetic dentist for a dental implant.

While a cosmetic dentist can perform the same tasks as a general dentist, they do so with an emphasis on achieving the best aesthetic results. This is why many people visit a cosmetic dentist in order to attain the smile they have always wanted, for example.


Understanding the differences between general and cosmetic dentists can be key when determining which option is best for you. If you are unsure, discussing your dental goals with a professional can help clarify which is more suitable. Although it is standard to visit a general dentist regularly, sometimes issues arise where it is best to visit a cosmetic dentist, especially if aesthetics are of the utmost importance. 

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