What is Cosmetic Dentistry

If you’ve got dental work in your future and you’re wondering about what’s covered and what’s not by your dental insurance, then you might be curious to know which dental procedures are cosmetic and which ones are considered restorative. In some cases, the answer is simple, but in others, there’s a gray area. In other words, some dental procedures that are cosmetic for patients in a very specific situation may not be cosmetic for patients in a very different situation. Though a particular procedure may improve a patient’s appearance, it may also make important contributions to the patient’s overall health. These are the types of procedures that may be covered by insurance even if they have a lot of power to improve the patient’s appearance. This article will discuss some of those subtleties as well as some dental treatments that are always considered cosmetic to give patients a sense of what may or may not be covered in certain situations as well as a short discussion about how insurance companies determine whether a particular procedure is restorative or cosmetic dentistry.

One very obvious dental procedure that’s always considered cosmetic in nature is teeth whitening. The reason why teeth whitening is always considered to be cosmetic is because the procedure is only performed to improve the aesthetic appearance of the smile. The whiteness of the teeth does not perform a function or improve the patient’s health. Rather, it improves the patient’s cosmetic appearance. So teeth whitening is always considered to be a cosmetic procedure. Morning Star Dental patients should be prepared to pay out-of-pocket for a procedure like this. Insurance companies simply don’t reimburse patients for teeth whitening.

The Snap-On Smile is yet another restorative dental procedure that’s purely cosmetic as far as insurance companies are concerned. The Snap-On Smile is a dental plate that’s worn all the time on the lower or the upper arches, even when eating or drinking and it’s used to help patients deal with chipped, stained, crooked, or missing teeth. It does not improve the functionality of the teeth and therefore it’s considered a cosmetic procedure.

Yet another cosmetic procedure is cosmetic bonding, which is done to improve the appearance of teeth with gaps, uneven teeth, or teeth that are too small in comparison with other teeth. This procedure is cosmetic in that it covers up the aesthetic issues and makes the teeth look better. It does not typically improve the functionality of the teeth and so, as a general rule, it is not considered restorative.

Inlays or onlays that have been created to cover the part of teeth where a filling is needed are also not covered as restorative dentistry. Traditionally, in a dental clinic, the cavities would be filled after being treated, but putting in an inlay or an onlay is strictly for cosmetic reasons. It’s a cosmetic treatment that merely improved the appearance of the teeth, but that does nothing to improve their function. So inlays and onlays must be paid for out-of-pocket.

Many patients wonder if braces are restorative, but unfortunately, and strangely enough, they’re considered strictly cosmetic. It’s true that braces can dramatically improve the health and function of teeth, but insurance still does not cover this type of treatment perhaps because braces are typically sought out to improve the aesthetic appearance of the patient rather than to improve the patient’s health. At any rate, orthodontic treatments like this are not typically covered by insurance.

But while these various procedures are clearly cosmetic in nature, there are a number of dental procedures that could be considered cosmetic in certain situations or considered restorative in others. If the dental procedure in question is being performed because it will positively impact the health and function of the teeth, gums, or jaw, then it’s very possible that your insurance company will cover it. On the other hand, if the procedure you’re considering is being performed primarily to make your smile look nicer, then it will probably be considered a cosmetic procedure and it won’t be reimbursed by your dental insurance provider.

Often, our patients, will lose a tooth as a result of decay or an accident. When this happens, the aesthetic appearance of the smile is affected, but so is the functionality of the mouth. In other words, when there is an empty space where a tooth used to be, the patient may be less effective at chewing, speaking, or eating. The loss of a tooth can also have a negative impact on the patient’s gums. And poor gum health, including debris and plaque, can have a negative impact on the patient’s overall health. A missing tooth can also hurt the integrity of the jaw bone that underlies it. If you lose a tooth, the jaw bone under the area with the tooth loss begins to deteriorate and weaken. And, often our patients at Morning Star Dental in Concord, will experience issues with their bite as a result of missing teeth. When there are gaps in the teeth, proper alignment is lost which can have important health consequences in terms of that person’s ability to eat and to speak.

Dental Insurance and Cosmetic Dentistry

Dental implants, bridges, and crowns are excellent examples of dental procedures that could be considered cosmetic, but that also play an important role in the patient’s health. It’s true that a number of cosmetic dentists offer these types of treatments, but beyond the cosmetic aspects of what these restorative procedures offer are health benefits that often motivate insurance companies to go ahead and pay for them. It isn’t uncommon for patients to be covered for implants, bridges, and crowns depending on the specific reasons why they’re having these procedures done.

If you’re curious about whether a particular dental procedure that will confer certain cosmetic benefits to your smile can be covered by dental insurance, check with your provider before beginning treatment. Find out what types of treatments they cover and ask if there are special, extenuating circumstances that would make the procedure in question fall into the “restorative”, rather than the “cosmetic” category.