How to Choose the Right Cosmetic Dentist


cosmetic-dentistry-credentials-ebookSelecting the right cosmetic dentist can be a difficult and confusing process, but making a proper choice of a cosmetic dentist is a crucial decision with ramifications on your looks and self-confidence that could last a lifetime.  Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic influx of “cosmetic dentists” into the field so much so that today almost every dentist is a “cosmetic dentist.”  Why?   Because “cosmetic dentist” is an unregulated term and therefore any dentist can claim to be a cosmetic dentist.  As a result, many general and family dentists justify holding themselves out as cosmetic dentists because over the years they did not intend any of their dental work to look ugly — so therefore, their dentistry must have been – “cosmetic.”   Using this rationale, unfortunately, there is no shortage of improperly trained dentists masquerading as cosmetic dentists.

So when someone is looking to get a gorgeous, natural-looking smile, how does one choose a real cosmetic dentist?  Below is some advice that patients have found helpful during the selection process:

  1. The most important: Make sure your cosmetic dentist is Accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (and not just a member). You can easily check whether a dentist is Accredited on the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry’s website at  Remember, any dentist can become a member of the AACD, but Dentists Accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry must undergo a substantial amount of cosmetic dentistry education and training, present five different types of cosmetic dentistry cases to panel of experts to be judged, pass comprehensive written and oral examinations, and adhere to a strict code of cosmetic dentistry ethics. No other certifying board requires their dentists to meet standards as stringent as these.  Note: An Accredited Fellow in the AACD is recognized as the highest level of competence in cosmetic dentistry.
  2. Don’t be fooled by “credentials” from organizations offering quickie “certifications” or awards.Unfortunately, there are organizations cropping up offering short-cut “credentials,” “medals,” or awards” in cosmetic dentistry.  To the uneducated consumer, some of these may certainly sound impressive.  But it is difficult to know whether these came from a weekend course, whether the criteria were bona fide, or what the alphabet soup of letters mean after the dentist’s name.  For example, if a dentist touts a getting “medal,” in all likelihood, this was an unregulated vote with imprecise criteria.  If a dentist says that they are “fellows” or “accredited,” the question should always be “by whom?”  Be wary of those dentists who are not Accredited by any board except the American Board of Cosmetic Dentistry and the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, as designation by other organizations may mean little when considering cosmetic dentistry.
  3. A dentist who practices general, family and cosmetic dentistry is different from a “cosmetic dentist.” Any dentist can call themselves a “cosmetic dentist.”  You wouldn’t want a general or family physician to perform your nose job or breast augmentation, so why would you want your general and family dentist to perform your smile makeover? Many well-known dentists are not Accredited cosmetic dentists, although patients may believe they are. There have been numerous botched cases from other dentists where the patients have found out only afterwards that their original dentist was not a dentist Accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic dentistry and actually had no formal cosmetic dentistry training. It’s very disturbing.
  4. Select a dentist who teaches post-graduate cosmetic dental training. To perform cosmetic dental procedures at the highest level; technical skill, an artistic eye, and a rigorous program of post-graduate training in cosmetic dentistry is needed. It may surprise you to learn that most dentists did not take any cosmetic dentistry courses in dental school. Your mouth is not the place for on-the-job training. At a minimum, the cosmetic dentist that you select continually completes series of hands-on courses in cosmetic dentistry. Better yet, select a cosmetic dentist who teaches cosmetic dentistry to other dentists – get the “professor” instead of the “student.”  The field changes rapidly and what was state-of-the-art five or ten years ago is not anymore. In depth training is essential to learn the latest techniques and materials to get optimal results.
  5. Select a dentist who performs smile designs every day. Before you randomly select a dentist out of the phone book or rely on your long-time family dentist to give you the smile design of your dreams, think again. Great cosmetic dentistry is an art. The fact is, many dentists are generalists who simply have not performed cosmetic smile designs very many times or with a regularity that leads to mastery of this art. So, if you are considering veneers, for example, you should ask exactly how many veneers the dentist has placed. Placing thousands of veneers a year allows a dentist to see a wide variety of many different types of smiles and bring this experience and expertise to enhance your case.
  6. Avoid bargain-basement “cosmetic dentistry” centers. These may be run by a corporate office that knows nothing about cosmetic dentistry or operated by dentists who are “training” to become cosmetic dentists with their patients as their guinea pigs. In some respects, it may be like getting a cheap haircut, however in this case, the results don’t grow out after a few weeks, but may be with you for decades to come.  In cosmetic dentistry, as in life, you usually get what you pay for.
  7. Closely examine the dentist’s before and after photos. Be wary if your dentist does not have his or her own photos to show you.
  8. Trust your gut feeling. Ask around. In the end, it is a personal decision that each person must make for himself or herself.  Above all, make sure you get a good feeling from your cosmetic dentist. If you don’t feel comfortable with the first dentist you meet, find another. Cosmetic dentistry is a big deal, so take your time in finding whoever is the best dentist for you.  You never regret dentistry you didn’t do. You only regret the dentistry you did, but shouldn’t have done.

Choosing the right cosmetic dentist for you, one with substantial experience in complex cases, extensive hands-on training, and a gentle approach that compliments your needs and wants is critical to achieving the most successful outcome – your gorgeous new smile. Educated and discerning people will realize that most “cosmetic dentistry,” if done properly, is a complex and precise set of operative procedures that will dramatically affect their lives for years to come.

You can also click here to download our free eBook on choosing the right cosmetic dentist.