Have you or a member of your family been considering smile enhancement? Are you unfamiliar with what it means to be a cosmetic dentist, or about how you would go about choosing a Raleigh NC cosmetic dentist? This information is for you! It provides background information that can help you make a better decision when selecting a Raleigh NC cosmetic dentist.
What IS a Cosmetic Dentist?
Many people are not aware that the American Dental Association (ADA) doesn’t recognize “cosmetic dentistry” as an official specialized field of dental practice. Consistent with that approach, the NC Dental Board (the regulatory body for dentists practicing in NC) has no special regulations that pertain to a cosmetic dentist (or one practicing in any other part of NC). In other words, you cannot contact the NC Dental Board and ask for a list of Raleigh cosmetic dentists to choose from because ANY general dentist can make the decision to promote their services as a Raleigh NC cosmetic dentist.
DDS (Doctorate of Dental Surgery) education includes training on approaches and technologies for providing cosmetic dentistry services in a very general way. The emphasis in many dental schools on providing this type of training has certainly increased in the last couple of decades, but without being combined with substantial hands-on experience, the results of that general dentistry training remains largely academic/theoretical/untested. This is not to belittle the importance of academic training for cosmetic dentistry procedures. In fact, good academic training on the structure and stability of teeth is one of the most important factors in helping dentists to avoid sacrificing function and oral health when trying to create an attractive smile for you.
Assess Experience in Choosing a Raleigh NC Cosmetic Dentist
When looking for a cosmetic dentist, you’ll probably start to see that those who promote their cosmetic dentistry services will provide consistent core services because of their importance to smile enhancement. Those services include:
- Veneers and cosmetic bonding
- Tooth whitening treatments
- Orthodontics (braces, aligners)
- Dental implants
- Crowns and bridges
- Composite, tooth-colored fillings
Looking at before/after photos is one way that many people use to decide on a cosmetic dentist, but it may not be the best way. Looks are only one indicator of good cosmetic dentistry. Those who have a beautiful smile, but have sacrificed functionality (e.g., difficulty or pain while chewing) can bear testimony to the importance of evaluating other aspects. Beyond classroom training, extensive experience in each area (see previous list) is important. Experience helps your Raleigh NC cosmetic dentist know what to try – and perhaps more importantly what NOT to try – during the smile enhancement process.
If you’re interviewing more than one dentist, and one says he or she can achieve a look that another one can’t, don’t ASSUME that the one who can/will do it is the most qualified provider. Instead, ask more questions of both providers with respect to the disparity in answers and recommended treatment approaches. Some dentists may know perfectly well HOW to do a procedure, but refuse to do it for you because they know that you could be unhappy (either short-term or longer term) because of functionality issues, durability concerns, or impact to oral health. For example, you might love the look of your new porcelain veneers, but regret that “the hidden price” you paid is ongoing difficulty with biting things.
Useful questions to ask your prospective Raleigh NC Cosmetic Dentist include the following:
- How many years of experience do you have in providing cosmetic dentistry services?
- As a cosmetic dentist, what specialized training and experience do you have in performing work similar to what you are recommending for me? Valuable forms of specialized training and experience are often acquired in specialized settings (such as large hospitals) where specialized departments exist – e.g., orthodontics, dentofacial, craniofacial services. Hands-on experience with some of most challenging cosmetic dentistry cases can be obtained in those settings.
- What are your recommendations for my situation? What specific services do you recommend? For each service, ask about the technology/approach used, and how long the dentist has been using that approach.
- For orthodontic services, do you have any special certifications you have earned from the providers of dental technology/products. For example, if you are interested in Invisalign’s “invisible braces,” you may benefit from choosing a Raleigh NC cosmetic dentist who has achieved preferred provider status, based on successful experience in using the product on many patients.
Other Ways to Narrow the Field
There are other ways that can help you narrow the field in choosing a cosmetic dentist. There are other dentistry services that could worthy of your concurrent consideration in making your selection. For example, if you have extensive cosmetic dentistry needs, experience dental anxiety, or simply have a very busy schedule, you may want to choose a dentist who is also certified to perform sedation dentistry. In addition to the added comfort, it is sometimes possible to combine into a single, extended appointment what might otherwise require two or three appointment by using sedation. (Ask whether your dentist is certified by the NC Dental Board to provide sedation dentistry. The NC Dental Board enacted special regulations to ensure your safety in the administration of dental sedation in 2009! The number of Raleigh NC dentists who are certified is relatively low.
For those for whom convenience is important, you might want to evaluate whether you’d rather use two dentists – one for cosmetic purposes only, and another for general oral health and regular preventive care. A limited number of Raleigh NC cosmetic dentists also aspire to be full-service providers – keeping up to date on advances in both cosmetic AND general dentistry. To find out if your prospective dentist falls into this category, ask about recent advances and approaches being used in the practice in both areas. If your cosmetic dentist aspires to serve not only your short-term cosmetic needs, but also your ongoing general dental health needs, then that dentist has a vested interest in your long-term happiness with your cosmetic dentistry results.
Financially speaking, remember to ask which cosmetic dentistry procedures are or are not covered by your insurance plan when you discuss a potential treatment plan with a cosmetic dentist. Many cosmetic procedures performed today are elective,you’re your dental insurance may not provide coverage. If the procedures are not covered, you may want to inquire about payment options, especially if a more extensive treatment plan has been recommended for you or a family member.