Cosmetic Dentist – Five Questions to Ask
If you’ve been wanting to enhance your smile, you may have also wondered how to choose a good cosmetic dentist for your needs. The answer is not as simple as you might hope, especially since the American Dental Association (ADA) doesn’t recognize “cosmetic dentistry” as a specialized field of practice for dentists. Similarly, most state dental boards (the licensing and regulatory bodies) don’t have special regulations that are unique to practicing as a cosmetic dentist. In other words, any general dentist can provide cosmetic dentistry services.
The education required to become a doctor of dental surgery (DDS) includes training on the discipline and many technologies associated with providing cosmetic dentistry services in a general way. Training programs in the 90’s and beyond are different from the ones in previous decades because of the growing demand for cosmetic dentistry services. Let’s turn to the five questions that can help you make a wise decision.
1. How much experience does the dentist have?
Dentists who truly have a focus on cosmetic dentistry typically offer these services:
– Veneers and cosmetic bonding
– Teeth whitening treatments
– Orthodontics, such as braces and aligners
– Bridges and crowns
– Composite tooth-colored fillings
– Dental implants+
While looking at before and after photos can certainly be impressive, you should also specifically inquire about the depth of experience in any of the above areas that will be involved in your treatment plan. Functionality and oral health should never be compromised to achieve a great visual appearance. Learning to achieve all three comes not only from know-how, but also from extensive hands-on experience. How long has the prospective dentist been in practice? How many patients has he or she treated with the specific type of treatment that you will require?
2. How and where did your dentist get his or her experience?
As with any profession, mentoring and training at the hands of experts can have a huge influence on how well and how quickly you can become highly skilled as a cosmetic dentist.
– Begin by looking for a graduate of a nationally recognized dental school – one whose professors are certain to be familiar with the latest technology and are recognized for their expertise.
– Beyond the DDS education program, ask whether the dentist has had additional training from experts. Especially, look for experience in large university hospital settings that have departments of specialty related to dentistry and cosmetic enhancement. Those teams typically treat the most challenging cases, and hands-on experience gained there comes with the oversight of national experts. (These types of departments might specialize in craniofacial or dento-facial needs, or in orthodontics.)
– If you’re looking for a special type of service, such as Invisalign “invisible braces,” you should inquire about whether the cosmetic dentist has achieved preferred provider status – a designation that is based on having provided those specific services to a substantial number of patients.
3. Does the dentist provide sedation dentistry?
If you’ve ever experienced dental anxiety, have a hectic schedule, want quick results, or need extensive cosmetic dentistry procedures, you might want to look for a cosmetic dentist who is certified to perform sedation dentistry. It is sometimes possible to combine what might otherwise require two or three appointments into a single appointment by using sedation – without compromising your health or quality of the results. Not all states regulate the practice of sedation dentistry, although more states are starting to do so in order to ensure patient safety. There are also different levels of sedation dentistry. You can call your state dental board and find out if sedation dentistry is regulated, discuss different levels of sedation, and perhaps also obtain the names of dentists in your area who are certified.
4. How well does the proposed treatment plan suit you?
While it can be related to a lack of experience, some cosmetic dentists simply aren’t very flexible in what they offer. The result is that the proposed plan might not be the best one for you – from the standpoint of your oral health, your desired outcome, or your budget. A cosmetic dentist who is adept and experienced at cosmetic dentistry can strike a good balance between outcome and budget, without compromising your oral health. If you’re feeling discouraged because you were presented with a plan that was completely out of your budget (even with a payment plan), then don’t be afraid to look for another qualified cosmetic dentist. You don’t have to sacrifice quality in order to experience improvements in your smile. Continue to look for an experienced cosmetic dentist. Ask whether the dentist would be willing to work with you in devising a plan that suits your budget.
5. Does the cosmetic dentist offer flexible payment terms?
Do not be afraid to ask whether the cosmetic dentistry procedures you’re interested in are or are not covered by your specific insurance plan. Because many procedures performed today are elective, your dental insurance may not pay for the procedures you want. For that reason, you might want to also ask about available payment options, especially for more extensive treatment plans.