Board Certification for Cosmetic Dentistry? Dentists Say No!

Post your comments about cosmetic dentistry to our blog. Read the cosmetic dentistry survey press release.

89% of dentists don't think cosmetic dentistry should be a separate specialty

In this poll, we asked dentists: Should cosmetic dentistry become its own board-certified specialty?

The clear majority of dentists don’t think cosmetic dentistry should be a separate specialty. A full 89% of dentists responded, “No – The current system works, and cosmetic dentistry should not be board-certified.” Only 11% replied, “Yes – It’s time that cosmetic dentistry be recognized as its own specialty.”

Read the dentists’ comments

The most significant factor in determining a dentist’s vote was geographic location. Urban dentists were far more likely then their rural colleagues to support board certification for cosmetic dentistry. This suggests that dentists in more urban areas are somewhat more likely to specialize in cosmetic dentistry. With a shortage of dentists in many rural areas, rural dentists sometimes have to fill more roles for their patients. For many of them, the idea of specializing in cosmetic dentistry just isn’t relevant to their patients’ needs.


Rural dentists were completely (100%) opposed to cosmetic dentistry as a separate specialty, an idea that’s supported by one of every five urban dentists. Suburban dentists, not surprisingly, fell in between their rural and urban counterparts.


This difference may point to access-to-care issues in less populated areas. With fewer dentists meeting the needs of more patients, rural dentists don’t always have the same opportunity for specialization. Rural dentists want to be able to perform cosmetic procedures on their patients, but their patients still need their general dentistry services as well.

Urban areas, on the other hand, are seeing an increasing number of doctors who primarily or exclusively offer cosmetic procedures. Urban centers are also likely to draw patients from farther away seeking cosmetic dental work. A few of these city dentists want to be cosmetic dentists, not general dentist – but most (81% of the urban doctors) would rather things stay as they are.


Gender differences were minor, though female dentists were twice as likely to support cosmetic dentistry as a specialty than their male colleagues.

This may suggest that women are more likely than men to choose cosmetic dentistry as their area of specialty.


Sometimes specialists and general dentists can agree on something! Both groups were equally opposed to granting board certification to cosmetic dentists.

Most dentists already perform some cosmetic procedures. They don’t want to lose their ability to perform these procedures, and they’re not eager to jump through any administrative hoops in order to get board certification.

For detailed geographic results, just click on this interactive map. (Flash required)

For more insight into what our respondents are thinking, check out their comments!

Aren’t we all in the same boat here?

  • "All specialties (and general practice) have cosmetic elements."
    – Periodontist, urban Iowa
  • "All dentists are cosmetic dentists!"
    – Orthodontist, urban Florida

The secret’s in the lab

  • “Heck no! Any dentist remotely competent that has a good lab is perfectly capable of achieving excellent results. The dirty little secret about ‘cosmetic dentistry’ is that it probably has more to do with a good ceramist than a good dentist.”
    – General dentist, suburban Ohio
  • “I think it is time to admit to ourselves that the best ‘cosmetic dentist’ this week is the one with
    the best lab technician.”

    – General dentist, suburban Florida
  • “My definition of a cosmetic dentist is a mediocre operator with an excellent lab, doing mostly unnecessary treatment on healthy tissues, charging too much for services, and failing to inform patients of the perils they face.”
    – Prosthodontist, urban Georgia

Just let me practice dentistry, please!

  • “Are you kidding? The skills honed through dental school, GPR, and throughout my years in private practice have given me the skill and knowledge to perform ‘Cosmetic’ procedures.”
    – General dentist, suburban North Carolina
  • “We do not need to give the government more money. Every dentist thinks about cosmetics when delivering any restoration to a patient.”
    – General dentist, urban California
  • “By what criteria does it qualify as a specialty? The entire field is so subjective, and mostly based on market driven forces and not evidence based criteria. Making it a specialty is an insult to those of us who endeavor for excellence in our daily activities.
    Prosthodontist, urban New York
  • “Over-specialization is a sure-fire ticket to destroying the profession – just look at medicine.”
    – General dentist, suburban Florida
  • “I have practiced dentistry for 33 years (you can call me an old curmudgeon if you want to), and I feel cosmetics is part of everyday
    dentistry. I don’t know anyone who says they specialize in ugly dentistry. By the way, why does every mouth have to look like a row of mini-Frigidaires?”
    – General dentist, rural New Mexico
  • “The ADA needs to open up more areas for specialty consideration, but cosmetic dentistry is not one of them.”
    – General dentist, suburban Alaska

Watch out for those who advertise too loudly…

  • “I do better cosmetic dentistry than the local guys who spend a fortune to advertise and boast they are leaders in the field."
    – General Dentist, suburban New York
  • “The term ‘cosmetic dentistry’ is marketing – every dentist practices it.”
    – General dentist, urban Michigan
  • “The public should be wary consumers as with all purchases.”
    – General dentist, suburban New Jersey
  • “Absolutely not! Should we limit the use of the term ‘Cosmetic’ in practice promotions similar to what is already in place? Yes!”
    – General dentist, rural Virginia

Regulation will help ensure quality!

  • “Everyone today is a cosmetic dentist. As with any specialty, any dentist could still provide cosmetic dentistry services, but they could
    not claim to be a specialist, which is every cosmetic dentist's claim today. This would give the public another criterion in deciding who they want to provide their cosmetic services.
    – General dentist, suburban California
  • “As with so many aspects of our society, advertising rules. If we at least require some sort of credential, if not actually creating a specialty, then those advertising will be at a baseline. Certainly an ENT or family practitioner could do nose jobs, but wouldn’t you rather go to a board certified plastic surgeon?”
    – General dentist, urban North Carolina
  • “Though I am not a dentist, I feel that I am certainly qualified to answer this question, having many years of experience in dental marketing. The answer is YES. I cannot tell you how many patients I have seen who needed a complete redo because clinicians did not understand the concept of Smile Design or weren’t trained to consider the lip line, gingival margin, midline, or take the facial structure into consideration… I hardly believe that a dentist could know these things simply by reading trade journals or going to study clubs.”
    – Business Development VP, urban CA

Why do "cosmetic dentists" think they're so special?

  • “I was an artist before I was a dentist, so I’ve been practicing artistic, cosmetic dentistry ever since. Once there’s a specialty, they will try to market that they are the only ones qualified to produce artistic results…..Hogwash!
    – General dentist, rural Arkansas
  • “Name one dentist who does ugly dentistry. This specialty will insult the whole profession. Maybe cosmetic dentists should do makeup, hair styling, manicures, tanning, eyeliner tattoos and colon cleansing like some are already doing. Why use a middleman hair stylist? Cosmetic dentistry is legalized rip-off.
    – General dentist, suburban Kansas
  • “Excellent-looking, medically necessary dentistry could well be called ‘Esthetic Dentistry.’ The term ‘Cosmetic Dentistry’ seems mostly to be used when the motivation is purely or largely appearance… For me, Cosmetic Dentistry is a subset of excellent General Dentistry and is not usually done solely by itself.”
    – General dentist, suburban Michigan

Hey, it’s called prosthodontics!

  • “Prosthodontics could engulf cosmetic dentistry. If anything, we should make general dentistry a specialty as medicine has done for family practice. I graduated in 1970, and the body of knowledge in dentistry has multiplied many times. Perhaps, like medicine, dentistry should require a residency for licensure.”
    – General dentist and dental professor, urban Mississippi
  • “What defines cosmetic dentistry as opposed to general dentistry? I think 99.9% of general dentists today perform at least some cosmetic procedures… Besides, anyone offering ‘full-mouth makeovers’ should already have a specialty – it’s called Prosthodontics!”
    – General dentist, suburban California

How exactly will this work?

  • “To my knowledge, there are no educational programs that would meet specialty criteria. Additionally, there is no need, as GP’s adequately provide the services.”
    – General dentist, urban Florida
  • “It would be deceiving to the public, as there are no standards or certified educational programs for ‘cosmetic dentistry.'”
    – Prosthodontist, suburban Pennsylvania
  • How will you make sure of standards for care? Where will this be done, at the undergraduate or graduate level? I cannot believe that general dentists would want this. This
    can’t be done at the Continuing Education level.

    – General dentist, suburban New York

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