Do you know the difference between a dentist, orthodontist, cosmetic dentist, and a prosthodontist? There are many different types of dentists. The dental field has grown to include not only those services designed to improve health but also those that enhance the look of a smile. While an orthodontist focuses on the straightening of teeth and restoration specialists handle replacing missing teeth, there is some confusion as to where a dentist and a cosmetic dentist differ. 

First, when you compare education, you’ll find that a cosmetic dentist and a general dentist hold the same degree in dentistry. This allows them to practice in their state and perform all the services thereunder. So if a cosmetic dentist doesn’t have to obtain another degree, aren’t they the same, and can’t every dentist claim to be a cosmetic dentist? Yes and no.

The Training

A cosmetic dentist goes through extensive training in many different procedures. While general dentist practices many of the same services, these are fillings, root canals, and treating gingivitis. Cosmetic dentists learn how to solve dental problems with the aesthetic of the smile in mind. While they will still be mindful of the health of the teeth and gums, their goals are slightly different than that of a general dentist. Their training will include how to take even general procedures and make them look good. With the example of a posterior crown, which no one will see, a cosmetic dentist will take the time to ensure it blends flawlessly with the other teeth. 

When it comes to training, a general dentist may only do a minimum after they complete dental school. Most cosmetic dentists will attend several seminars, programs, and do advanced certification. This allows them to specialize in certain services. For example, to be a preferred Invisalign provider, a dentist will need to complete training and become certified. Invisalign is a cosmetic procedure, and most dentists don’t invest in this unless they provide cosmetic dental treatments.


When it comes to experience, both dentists will have experience doing different types of procedures. While a dentist can certainly apply veneers, a cosmetic dentist will do them every day and have excellent experience with that procedure. For patients that would like to improve the look of their smile, it is almost imperative that they see a cosmetic dentist versus a general dentist for the best results. 

A general dentist may offer some types of cosmetic procedures, but this does not make them a cosmetic dentist. The experience and how often they practice, and their commitment to additional education is what sets them apart.

Services Provided by General Dentists

When you think of going to the dentist for your bi-annual exams and cleanings, this is typically your general or family dentist. While a cosmetic dentist will undoubtedly perform these tasks, these are more specialized in the look and function versus preventative care. Most general dentists will offer:

Services Provided By A Cosmetic Dentist

The types of services offered by a cosmetic dentist will significantly vary based on the practitioner and which they choose to specialize in. However, there are staples in the industry that most cosmetic dentists practice to provide the best care to patients. These can include:

Is There A Price Difference?

Cosmetic dentists will typically attend more seminars and training after getting out of dental school. This allows them to stay up to date on the latest innovations in the field. After all, their primary focus is giving patients beautiful, healthier smiles. However, that training does come at a cost to the patients. A cosmetic dentist is typically more expensive than a general dentist. In most cases, this boils down to the amount of time the dentist will spend with the patient and the procedures that are performed. 


How Do You Decide Who To Visit?

What type of procedure are you needing? Are you in need of emergency dental care, or do you want to get a brighter, whiter smile? While both a cosmetic and general dentist can do both things, one is better suited for emergency care and another for professional teeth whitening. 

When factoring the cost and experience, many choose to go with the dentist that will give them the best results. When it comes to creating a beautiful smile, there’s no question that a cosmetic dentist is the best solution. For other procedures such as regular cleanings and checkups, a general dentist is more than qualified to complete these to the highest standards of care.

What is a Prosthodontist?

A prosthodontist is an ADA recognized dental practitioner, just as an orthodontist and dentist are. While any dentist can claim to be a cosmetic dentist, given they have had some additional training, the same can’t be said for a prosthodontist. This specialty requires an additional three years of education at a university.

The American Dental Association defines a prosthodontist as a “specialty pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, appearance and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues using biocompatible substitutes.” 

These individuals will have extensive training in both general dentistry and cosmetics but perform typically one function, restoring missing teeth and everything under that umbrella. In many cases, a prosthodontist handles restorations, such as dental implants, but also will consider the aesthetic side. A cosmetic and general dentist can also perform this type of oral surgery, but a prosthodontist has far more education and training.

In addition to dental implants, you might also expect a prosthodontist to perform more specialized services, including:


While you may be tempted to go to your general dentist for cosmetic procedures, you may want to think twice. While they can perform these services, they aren’t specially trained and have the same amount of experience a cosmetic dentist will have. Think of a cosmetic dentist as a master of their craft, and the general dentist as someone who dabbles. A cosmetic dentist will look at every procedure from the standpoint of beauty. Even when applying crowns, the aesthetic approach will be at the forefront.