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Cosmetic Versus General Dentistry

With advances in medical technology, the science of dentistry has now become more complex. It is now common for people to know two types of dentists: general dentists and cosmetic dentists. Both deal with tooth care and tooth health, but could you tell the difference between cosmetic and general dentistry?

In a nutshell, general dentistry is the type of dentistry that addresses the basic and functional concerns of your teeth, while cosmetic dentistry focuses on the aesthetic function of the teeth, or in other words, the visual appearance.

To further illustrate the difference between cosmetic and general dentistry, here are some common tooth care issues, and how each type of dentist in Laurel MD is likely to address them:

1. Fillings - Bacteria can enter into the spaces in the tooth. To prevent your teeth from further decay, fillings can be used in between these spaces to restore the general function of the tooth.

A general dentist may use metal fillings like gold which is very durable, and can last for more than 20 years. Since gold can be costly, a general dentist may also offer amalgam (silver) fillings which are also durable but less expensive.

A cosmetic dentist is likely to suggest either the use of composite (plastic) resins or porcelain, which can match the color of your tooth.

2. Missing teeth - Tooth decay or old age may weaken teeth, and eventually cause tooth loss.

A general dentist is likely to suggest the use of dentures to address this concern. Dentures could be simple and non-invasive, as they are removable, and can hold several teeth. Dentures can be made of either plastic (acrylic) or metal. Dentures can help you eat comfortably, and speak clearly - two activities which become very challenging with missing teeth.

While a cosmetic dentist may also prescribe the use of dentures, they are more likely to consider the use of dental implants, which can more accurately match your natural teeth. The best thing about dental implants is that they are not removable, since they are implanted in your jaw bone. Dental implants can be more invasive as they require surgery, but provide long-term benefits. Dental implants are very convenient, since they no longer require adhesives, and need not be removed when you sleep.

3. Damaged teeth - Teeth can become cracked or chipped due to an accident or decay.

A general dentist may use a bonding or filling procedure to address the problem of slightly cracked teeth. For more seriously damaged teeth, a root canal may be performed, after which permanent crowns made from metal, ceramic, or resin will be put on the teeth.

A cosmetic dentist may use the same procedures as the general dentist, but may consider more options in restoring the old visual appeal of the broken teeth. This involves using porcelain material for crowns, or using veneers which can look very much like your old teeth.

4. Whitening - As people age, teeth can become easily discolored and appear yellow. While the discoloration of the teeth will not necessarily affect its functionality, whitening is one of the top cosmetic dental issues that dentists encounter nowadays.

General dental practitioners are likely to recommend regular brushing and using some tooth whitening products which can be done at home.

Cosmetic dentists tend to offer more comprehensive procedures that guarantee the whitening of teeth in as little as an hour.

As you can see, the difference between cosmetic and general dentistry is that cosmetic dentists take into account the appearance of the dental treatment, be it tooth color, shape, or structure. In the case of a filling treatment, for instance, the cosmetic dentist is unlikely to suggest the use of gold and amalgam (because these materials have a different color from teeth), and use ceramic materials instead (closer to the true color of the teeth).

Both cosmetic and general dentists can perform general and routine dental procedures such as cleaning, teeth alignment, and extraction, among others. However, since most people are concerned not only with the functionality of their teeth, but also with their appearance, more and more people are now turning to cosmetic dentists.

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