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Cosmetic & Restorative Dentistry: What’s the Difference?

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Thanks to the advancements in cosmetic and restorative dentistry, achieving a healthy smile that suits your unique facial features is possible. But how do cosmetic and restorative dentistry differ from each other?

While both fields focus on improving the appearance and health of your teeth, they have distinct areas of focus. Restorative dentistry focuses on repairing damage, whereas cosmetic dentistry includes a wide range of services emphasizing the appearance of the teeth and gums.

If you want to make a positive change to improve your mouth’s appearance or functionality, visit your dentist for a dental exam. Based on the assessment of your teeth and gums, they’ll provide recommendations on the right procedure to enhance the beauty of your smile. 

What Is Restorative Dentistry?

Restorative dentistry aims to improve the function and health of your teeth. This includes procedures such as:

  • Fillings: used to treat cavities and prevent further decay
  • Root canals: used to remove infected pulp from the inside of your tooth, saving the tooth from extraction
  • Dental implants: used to replace missing teeth or support a bridge
  • Crowns: used to cap a broken tooth
  • Onlays: used to repair large cavities
  • Bridges: used to replace one or more missing teeth

The benefits of restorative dentistry include the following:

  • Restores function for chewing and speaking
  • Minimizes the risk of developing future dental issues
  • Improves the smile’s appearance

What Is Cosmetic Dentistry?

Cosmetic dentistry focuses on improving the appearance of your teeth, gums, and bite. As an adjunct to general dentistry, which aims to prevent, diagnose, and treat oral health issues like cavities and gum disease, cosmetic dentistry is about enhancing the aesthetic appeal of your smile.

Moreover, cosmetic dentistry can also be restorative. It can improve your oral hygiene by making flossing and brushing your teeth easier, and correct functional problems such as bite misalignment and jaw issues, eliminating chronic pain and increasing quality of life.

Cosmetic Dentistry Treatments

Cosmetic dentistry includes a wide range of treatments to enhance your smile, including:

  • Teeth whitening
  • Veneers
  • Orthodontics
  • Invisalign
  • Smile transformations

Zoom Teeth Whitening

If you’re a coffee and tea lover, enjoy red wine, or love tomatoes, you probably notice how they can affect the look of your teeth. But everyone can experience stained or yellow teeth for several reasons, including:

  • Pigmented foods and drinks
  • Tobacco
  • Tooth decay
  • Genetics

There are 3 different types of tooth discolouration, including:

  • Extrinsic: surface stains
  • Intrinsic: stains within the tooth
  • Age-related: natural wear and yellowing of teeth 

Teeth whitening treatments are a popular way to improve the appearance of your stained or discoloured teeth. In-office Zoom whitening treatments include a cleaning and dental exam. Once your teeth are free from plaque and tartar buildup and decay, your dental team will apply a whitening gel and a light activator to help break down stains and brighten your teeth.

Your dental team can also prepare an at-home whitening kit with professional whitening products that minimize sensitivity.


Veneers are thin, custom-made shells of porcelain that cover the front surface of your teeth to conceal any cosmetic damage or imperfections. They’re a popular cosmetic dentistry treatment because of their versatility and can correct the colour, shape, and size of your teeth all at once.

Veneers can correct several cosmetic concerns, including:

  • Chips or cracks
  • Irregular or misshapen teeth
  • Worn enamel
  • Discolouration
  • Gaps
A young woman smiling and holding a clear aligner in her left hand

Orthodontics & Invisalign

Straight, evenly spaced teeth are a coveted look, and several orthodontic treatments are available to address this. By exerting gentle pressure on the teeth, your braces or appliance will gradually shift teeth into their desired position. Orthodontic treatment can correct common problems, including:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Crowded teeth
  • Gapped teeth
  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • Crossbite
  • Open bite

While correcting misaligned teeth is a cosmetic concern, orthodontic treatment can significantly benefit the health of your teeth. Orthodontic treatment can help:

  • Make teeth easier to brush and floss
  • Correct temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)
  • Restore functional movement
  • Help prevent cavities and periodontal disease
  • Improve snoring and sleep apnea by repositioning your tongue and jaw

Invisalign is increasingly popular, especially among teens and adults requiring orthodontic treatment. The clear aligners are discreet, removable, and effective at straightening your smile. Another reason for their popularity is the lack of brackets or wires that make brushing and flossing more complex, and you can still eat your favourite foods.

Smile Transformations

If you have multiple cosmetic concerns, a complete smile transformation can address them all. A comprehensive plan for a smile transformation can include several procedures, including:

  • Gum contouring: a procedure that can improve the appearance of your gummy smile by reshaping your gums
  • Tooth restoration: using dental crowns, root canals, or veneers to re-establish functionality
  • Teeth whitening: an in-office or take-home whitening treatment to brighten your smile
  • Orthodontics: using braces or Invisalign to move your teeth into an aligned position
  • Fill gaps: a procedure to close open spaces to prevent teeth from shifting out of alignment

Crowns & Bridges

In addition to the distinct categories of cosmetic and restorative dentistry, there are procedures that fall somewhere in between. For instance, crowns and bridges are restorative treatments that can also enhance the appearance of your teeth. 

Crowns are tooth-shaped caps placed over damaged teeth to restore their shape and size. Not only do they provide functional benefits, but they also contribute to the overall aesthetics of your smile. 

Similarly, bridges are utilized to fill gaps caused by missing teeth. Comprised of one or more artificial teeth anchored to the adjacent natural teeth, bridges not only restore functionality but also improve the visual appeal of your smile. 

These restorative procedures offer the dual advantage of both functional and cosmetic enhancements.

Restore Your Healthy Smile

Whether you desire to enhance the aesthetics or functionality of your teeth, there is a wide range of cosmetic and restorative procedures available to cater to your specific needs. 

While cosmetic dentistry primarily focuses on improving the appearance of your teeth, restorative dentistry aims to enhance their functionality. However, it’s important to note that there is often an overlap between these procedures. If you are seeking to enhance the appearance of your smile, improve dental function, or simply require your next dental examination, we invite you to schedule an appointment with False Creek Dental. Our ultimate objective, whether through cosmetic or restorative dentistry, is to assist you in achieving a healthy, beautiful smile that brings you joy and satisfaction.

Written by Dr. Lisa Reino

Dr. Lisa Reino, a native of Dunbar, Vancouver, is a highly accomplished dentist with a passion for transforming smiles and empowering lives. With a strong educational background, she obtained her B.Sc. in Psychology from UBC, followed by her DMD in 1993. Driven by a commitment to excellence, Dr. Reino further honed her skills through a one-year residency in hospital dentistry. She also pursued specialized training in smoking cessation and oral cancer screening, ensuring comprehensive care for her patients.

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