What’s the Difference Between Cosmetic Dentistry and General Dentistry?

We all know what a general dentist does. You’ve probably been seeing a dentist since you were a child for check-ups, x-rays, and the odd filling. But you may not be as familiar with cosmetic dentistry as it’s relatively new. Advances in technology have made it possible to greatly enhance the appearance of a smile.   

General Dentistry

A dentist provides dental services that prevent dental problems from occurring. A dentist works on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions, diseases and disorders that affect the oral cavity including the teeth, gums, jaw and face. A check-up, x-ray, scale and clean help prevent more serious dental problems occurring. A dentist treats decayed teeth with fillings and may save an infected tooth with root canal treatment. 

When a patient needs diagnosis or treatment for something other than general dentistry, a dentist will refer a patient to a specialist such as a prosthodontist, periodontist, orthodontist, endodontist, or oral surgeon.    

Cosmetic Dentistry

Some people will tell you cosmetic dentistry has had a significant impact on their life. They no longer have to feel self-conscious about their missing or crooked teeth. They can talk and smile with confidence, knowing they look their best.

Another term for cosmetic dentistry is ‘smile design’. Prosthodontists have been designing new smiles for decades, but the advancement in technology means patients can achieve an incredible, natural-looking transformation of their teeth. It may be missing or broken teeth, discoloured or stained teeth or gaps you want filled, there’s a treatment available that can achieve the desired look.  

Some of the most common cosmetic dentistry treatments include:

Teeth Whitening

Whether your teeth are discoloured through age or lifestyle choices such as smoking and eating food or drinks that stain, teeth whitening can help. Whiter teeth can give your smile a boost and even make your smile look a little younger.     


Bonding is used to repair chipped or cracked teeth. The tooth-coloured resin is applied to the tooth, and a light used to harden it. The resin can also change the shape of a tooth. 

Dental Veneers

If you aren’t happy with the shape or colour of your teeth, dental veneers can help. A prosthodontist can design your veneers in a shape and colour that match your surrounding teeth, so your restoration is virtually undetectable. Best of all, with veneers you can see your final smile over three key stages, well before we finish treatment. 

Dental Crowns

A dental crown is a covering for a broken or decayed natural tooth that can’t be filled because too much of the natural tooth is missing. The crown covers a natural tooth that is stained or misshapen. Made from porcelain or porcelain and metal, we make a crown to match the colour of surrounding natural teeth.   

Dental Bridges

A bridge has multiple purposes – provide a prosthetic tooth/teeth to allow a person to continue to chew their food but also to cover the gap left by a missing tooth. 


While fillings perform an important function and are part of general dentistry, some patients have their old amalgam fillings replaced with tooth-coloured fillings to improve their teeth’s appearance.

Most Extras health insurance policies allow you to claim for part of the treatment cost for general and some cosmetic dental treatments. Ask for the item code so you can contact your health insurer for details about your potential rebate.  If you’re thinking of improving your smile with a cosmetic dentistry treatment, book an appointment with one of our experienced prosthodontists by calling (08) 9321 1632 or contact us online.