Is cosmetic dentistry right for you?

Dec. 1, 2013
Dr. Neil Riley talks about the things you must consider when choosing an area of dentistry to focus on, particularly cosmetic dentistry. Here, he goes through some of the advantages and disadvantages to help you plan your future.

After hours, days, years, and even decades of research and consideration, selecting a profession can be difficult, to say the least. Even after selecting a field of work, if subsets of that field exist, narrowing down an exact profession can turn into a science of its own genre. There are many fields that fall under the umbrella of “dentistry,” but cosmetic dentistry is a profession that is on rise. When determining whether or not cosmetic dentistry is the right field for you, there are many benefits and disadvantages to be taken under consideration.

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Thanks to the rise of social media and the Hollywood image, many patients today want to have perfect smiles. Working as a cosmetic dentist means helping raise patient self-esteem and providing them with a huge boost in confidence and personal pride. When you hand a patient, who formerly had a less-than-perfect smile, a mirror and give him or her the first glimpse of a brand new showbiz-ready smile, the sense of personal achievement can be extreme, especially because cosmetic processes include more than just those involved in general dentistry. Before-and-after photos garnered from working with these patients also assist in creating a portfolio of professional work, which can lead to more clients.

Additionally, many dental companies are willing to send free products to cosmetic dentists to try before using with patients. Since no product will be beneficial for every patient, sampling increases the range of services that can be provided as a cosmetic dentist. By having an array of options, cosmetic dentists are able to serve more patients successfully. This is always important because happy patients equal happy dentists, positive reviews, and more clients!

On the other hand, the cost of becoming a cosmetic dentist is great. The average cost of schooling for cosmetic dentistry is close to a half million dollars after all classes and certifications have been completed and earned. Schooling for cosmetic dentistry is also a time-intensive process. Cosmetic dentists must earn a four-year degree, spend four years in dental school, and attend additional years of schooling to specialize in cosmetic services. Once one becomes a cosmetic dentist, it is possible to spend the majority of the day in the office.

Because it is essential for cosmetic candidates to have strong teeth to build upon, a great amount of time must be devoted to fixing any pain, filling cavities, and performing root canals before starting on the cosmetic process. Some patients visit a cosmetic dentist thinking that they can walk into the office with a number of chronic tooth problems and walk out with a perfect Hollywood smile; they do not understand the chain of events where cosmetics is concerned. There are also some patients who, after bleaching, veneers, implants, etc., are still not satisfied with their smile and more time will need to be spent to determine additional treatment plans. Dealing with unhappy patients can create a stressful environment in the office and possibly negative word-of-mouth.

Overall, cosmetic dentistry can be a highly rewarding field. Knowing that you are helping your patients have higher self-esteem can lead to great personal gain, but the cost in time and money is a major sacrifice. Weighing the balance carefully between the advantages and disadvantages of working in the field of cosmetic dentistry is essential when choosing a specialty.

INFOGRAPHIC: Choosing cosmetic dentistry
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Neil Riley, DDS, is a cosmetic dentist located in Columbia, MO. He has served on the Delta Dental Board of Directors, The Missouri Dental Board (as president for two terms), and as president of the Columbia Dental Society.