Cosmetic dentists are dentists who have gone through extra training and education and specialize in dental work that improves the appearance of a person's teeth. The focus of cosmetic dentists is how the teeth look and not necessarily the function of a person's teeth, their gums or their bite.
These types of dentists are not officially considered to be formal specialty according to the American Dental Association. Still, there are many dentists who call themselves cosmetic dentists regardless of the standing of the American Dental Association. The individuals who often refer to themselves as cosmetic dentists are those who have completed the extra studies involved in prosthodontics and orthodontics. Those who specialize in these areas are called prosthodontists and orthodontists and are recognized as formal specialties by the American Dental Association.
Orthodontics specialize in correcting tooth irregularities and deformities of the face. The practice of prosthodontics is the practice that involves the comfort, appearance and health of patients with deficient or missing teeth or oral and maxillofacial tissue problems. Those who call themselves cosmetic dentists provide a variety of services. All their treatments involve activities that focus on the look of the teeth. These activities could involve anything from removal of tooth structure or gums, to gum grafts, teeth straightening or the addition of dental material to teeth or gums.
Teeth whitening is a technique done by many individuals who refer to themselves as cosmetic dentists. Teeth whitening is also called tooth bleaching. It's the most common cosmetic procedure and is done exclusively for the look of the teeth. The whiter the teeth are has no impact on how well they function. There are over-the-counter treatments but dentists of all specialties recommend dentist supervised treatments for yellow teeth.
The reshaping of teeth is another procedure done by those who call themselves cosmetic dentists. This can often be done in one office visit and involves reshaping the tooth by removing parts of the enamel to make the tooth look more uniform. The procedure is used to fix a small chip in the tooth, correct excessively long or crooked teeth or change the shape, length of position of a tooth. In some circumstances, this type of treatment can be a substitute for braces, but you would need to discuss this option with a professional to be sure.
Bonding is another procedure done by cosmetic dentists, or those calling themselves cosmetic dentists. This is a process that bonds an enamel-like dental composite to the surface of the tooth to fix a chip or crack. The composite is shaped, hardened and then polished and cannot be distinguished by a non professional from the real tooth.
Veneers are sometimes confused with teeth bonding but is actually quite different. It involves a process where custom made porcelain laminates are bonded to the teeth to close gaps or hide discolored teeth.
Dental bridges, more commonly known as false teeth, are fused into place and cannot be removed like partial dentures or dentures can. They're also sometimes used to correct bite problems.