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3 Main Differences Between Cosmetic and Restorative Dentistry

Smiling woman cosmetic veneers

At Medical Arts Dentistry in Savannah, Dr. Roher provides both cosmetic and restorative dental services. At first glance, the difference seems pretty straightforward. However, there are some differences that you should be aware of when speaking with Dr. Roher about your oral health goals. 

Cosmetic Dentistry

The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry defines cosmetic dentistry as “Cosmetic dentistry is dentistry aimed at creating a positive change to your teeth and to your smile.” In practice, cosmetic and restorative dentistry have many things in common. For example, they are both used to restore damaged teeth and are part of the general dentistry services at Medical Arts Dentistry. 

However, the key differences are in the reason for treatment, the goal of treatment, and the materials & tools used to complete the treatments.

Essential vs Optional

One of the major differences between cosmetic and restorative dentistry is how important it is to complete the treatment. If you have a broken, decayed, or missing tooth, treatment is absolutely essential. The experienced Medical Arts Dentistry team is trained to provide comfort and relief while repairing or replacing teeth. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, or are having difficulty eating and chewing, the treatment you receive is a necessity to keep your entire body healthy. It is usually easy to realize when something is wrong with a tooth because the tell-tale signs include bleeding, swelling, pain, sensitivity, or damage. Restorative dentistry focuses on preventing future damage and decay, treating current issues like cavities and gum disease, and restoring functionality on broken, missing, or damaged teeth.

Cosmetic dental treatments are optional or elective procedures that treat the look of your smile. The aesthetic treatments focus on the color, shape, alignment, and spacing of your teeth. When you look in the mirror, if you see something you would like to improve or change in your mouth or smile, that falls under cosmetic dentistry. For instance, if you have noticed that your teeth are stained or slightly more discolored than before, you might want to have a teeth whitening session to bring them back to their former glory. There’s no rush in getting the service and you won’t have any discomfort when eating, but you might not be smiling as big as before. Also, many people are usually familiar with restorative care like fillings and root canals, but many people are unfamiliar with all the services that are offered for cosmetic care including whitening, veneers, and even botox & dermal fillers. 

Goal of Treatment

The goals of treatment are also different. Restorative dentistry focuses on restoring function. That is being able to eat and speak normally and without difficulty or discomfort. Dental braces are a common tool on both sides of this spectrum, however, if braces address tooth placement that makes it difficult to eat or speak, it is considered restorative care. Having a beautiful straight smile is just a bonus.

The goal of cosmetic treatment is simply to improve visual aesthetics while many times strengthening the tooth or solving other problems at the same time. For instance, having braces put on to straighten a smile or close a gap may not be medically necessary, but it can improve someone’s confidence and love for their smile. Many of these services, such as veneers, do not improve the function of your teeth. They are simply a solution for a better smile. Other times, like the braces, they can be part of the overall healthcare plan for your teeth. Also, like in the case of veneers, most cosmetic procedures are only performed on healthy teeth that are strong enough to handle the treatment without impact on their integrity.

Material Differences

This is the most important difference for many patients. An easy example is the materials used for filling a cavity. A dental filling can be made from a multitude of materials and alloys. Most of the time, fillings are either made from a metal alloy or a composite resin material that is strong enough to handle the powerful forces created by your jaw. In general, the metal materials are stronger and more durable and are usually recommended for use in the rear teeth that do most of the heavy chewing when eating. However, if you are worried about having metal fillings showing when you open wide, the composite fillings offer a strong alternative with the added color-matching feature that will make it blend into the tooth. With these modern solutions, most people can’t even tell where the work was done.


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