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What's the Difference between Cosmetic, Restorative and Preventive Dentistry?

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You need to undergo a regular dental check-up and replace a missing tooth, and you also want to brighten your look with tooth whitening.  So should you see a general, cosmetic, or restorative dentist?  You may be surprised to learn that the answer is all three.  In this article, you can learn about the different specialties within dentistry, such as cosmetic, restorative, and preventive (general) dentistry.

While every dentist's main concern is the healthy structure and function of your mouth, there are a number of specialties within the field of dentistry.  So what's the difference between a cosmetic, restorative, and preventive dentist? 

As the name suggests, preventive (often called general) dentistry is concerned with the prevention of dental maladies and the maintenance of a healthy mouth.  Most bi-annual dental check-ups include mostly preventive dentistry treatments, such as a full mouth examination, dental X-rays, and deep dental cleaning.  With proper preventive dental care, many patients can avoid the necessity of more costly and invasive restorative dentistry procedures.

Cosmetic dentists are primarily dedicated to enhancing the appearance of a patient's smile.  Before undergoing any cosmetic dentistry treatments, a patient must first undergo a complete general dentistry examination to ensure that there are no underlying problems such as plaque, decay, and infection which could compromise dental health and cosmetic outcomes.  Common cosmetic dentistry procedures include tooth whitening, porcelain veneers, and cosmetic dental bonding.

Aptly named, restorative dentistry focuses on restoring structure and function to teeth that are damaged, infected, or missing.  Dental crowns are the most commonly performed restorative dentistry treatment, usually following a root canal to remove infected tooth pulp.  Crowns fit over the entire surface of a damaged tooth to protect what remains of the tooth and to restore bite.  Dental implants and dentures also fall into the category of restorative dentistry treatments, as they are designed to replace missing teeth to restore the appearance and function of a patient's mouth structure.
Most dentists practice general or preventive dentistry in addition to a specialty, such as cosmetic, restorative, or implant dentistry. 

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