Cosmetic dentistry encompasses all of dentistry.

The distinction between this and general dentistry is that a cosmetic and natural-looking end result is envisioned while planning and performing any elective or necessary dental procedures.

Non-cosmetic dentistry would include, but not be limited to: silver fillings, crowns (caps) with metal in them, mismatching shades of white fillings and crowns with existing teeth, partial removable dentures with metal clasps that show, not treating red and bleeding gums, and any other item or material in the mouth that is not natural or tooth colored.

A beautiful smile has an underlying support of healthy gums and bone. The teeth can be destroyed over time due to irregularities in the bite that are not in harmony with the position of the teeth.

The most powerful muscles in the body control the closing of the jaw. If these muscles are not in balance, they can cause considerable destruction. This is mentioned only for the purpose of understanding what occurs behind the scenes when planning for a healthy, cosmetic smile.

There is a specific science about the parameters to follow in order to achieve a final cosmetic appearance in a smile. In order to achieve a stunning smile, these measurements and principles must be adhered to as closely as possible.

A sampling would include a centered mid-line, symmetry of the teeth on each side of the midline, and making sure the size proportions among the teeth are accurate. Dentists performing cosmetic dentistry have studied and are well versed in these principles. There is however no recognized specialty in cosmetic dentistry.

Knowledge is the most important thing for a dentist in using the various tools at his or her disposal. Most readers have probably heard of many of these tools. Invisalign, porcelain veneers and crowns, and white fillings are very common, just to name a few.

The good news is that even a simple filling, using matching tooth-colored materials, can be cosmetic if that is the intended result.

Not all dentists perform cosmetic dentistry. I believe most patients, if given the choice, do want and deserve cosmetic dentistry over non-cosmetic dentistry.

James G. Jenkins, D.M.D. is the owner of Bluffton Dental Care in Bluffton.