Is Orthodontics Cosmetic Dentistry? Exploring the True Purpose

Written by Golden State Dentists
Last updated Apr 15, 2023
Is Orthodontics Cosmetic Dentistry? Golden State Dentists

Is orthodontics cosmetic dentistry?

Regarding dental care, several branches focus on specific aspects of oral health. One common question people often ask is whether orthodontics falls under the umbrella of cosmetic dentistry. To better understand this, defining and differentiating between the two dental fields is essential.

Orthodontics is a specialized area of dental care that focuses primarily on diagnosing and treating malocclusions or improper bites. This branch of dentistry utilizes various devices, such as braces and clear aligners, to correct the alignment of teeth and jaws.

Cosmetic dentistry is a different branch that emphasizes improving the appearance and esthetics of a person's smile. Typical services provided in cosmetic dentistry include teeth whitening, veneers, and gum contouring.

Although orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry overlap in some areas, such as braces and clear aligners, they have distinct roles and goals in improving dental health. Orthodontics aims to correct fundamental issues with the teeth's positioning, while cosmetic dentistry seeks to enhance the overall appearance of an individual's smile.

A simple explanation would be how it works (orthodontics) versus how it looks (cosmetic dentistry).

Orthodontics vs. Cosmetic Dentistry

Orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry are two distinct fields within the dental profession; each focuses on different aspects of oral health and aesthetics. While both aim to improve a patient's smile, their goals and methods vary significantly.

Goals of Orthodontics

Orthodontics is a specialized practice of dentistry that focuses on diagnosing, preventing, and treating dental and facial irregularities.

The primary focus of orthodontic treatment is to correct the alignment of teeth and jaws to ensure proper bite function and overall oral health. Orthodontic treatment can address crooked teeth, overcrowding, malocclusion (improper bite), and other structural problems with the teeth and jaws. The most common orthodontic treatments include braces, aligners, and retainers.

Goals of Cosmetic Dentistry

Conversely, cosmetic dentistry focuses on enhancing the appearance of a patient's teeth, mouth, and smile.

While some cosmetic procedures may also have functional benefits, their primary goal is to improve the aesthetics of the teeth. Some common cosmetic dentistry services include:

  • Veneers – thin shells placed over the front surface of teeth to improve their appearance and shape
  • Teeth whitening – professional bleaching treatments to remove stains and discoloration
  • Dental implants – artificial tooth roots used to replace missing teeth
  • Crowns – tooth-shaped caps placed over damaged or decayed teeth to restore their shape, size, strength, and appearance

Orthodontic Treatments

3D Braces Rendering - Golden State Dentists


Braces are a popular treatment used by orthodontists to correct dental issues like crooked teeth, overcrowding, and bite problems.

They consist of brackets, usually made of metal or ceramic, that are bonded to the teeth and connected by wires. These wires are tightened periodically to move the teeth into the desired position gradually.

Treatment with braces may take several months to a few years, depending on the individual case complexities.

Two transparent aligner trays - Golden State Dentists

Clear Removable Aligner Trays

Clear removable aligner trays are an alternative to traditional braces that gradually shift teeth into proper positions.

Custom-made for each patient, these trays are worn for 20-22 hours daily and replaced every two weeks or as directed by the orthodontist.

Invisalign is popular among adults and older teens who prefer a more discreet appearance during treatment.

Retainers - Golden State Dentists


Retainers are custom-made orthodontic appliances designed to hold teeth in their correct positions once orthodontic treatment is completed.

Depending on your orthodontist's recommendation, they can be either fixed or removable. Retainers play a vital role in maintaining the results achieved through braces or Invisalign, as teeth may return to their original positions without proper retainer use.

Cosmetic Dental Treatments

Cosmetic dentistry focuses on enhancing the appearance and aesthetics of an individual's teeth, ultimately improving their smile. Some of the most common cosmetic dental treatments include teeth whitening, veneers, and dental implants.

Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is a popular cosmetic dentistry procedure to brighten discolored or stained teeth.

There are various methods, such as in-office treatments, at-home kits, or whitening toothpaste. In-office treatments typically provide faster and more noticeable results, while at-home options can be more affordable and convenient for patients.

It is important to consult a dental professional before undergoing any whitening treatment. They can recommend the best option for your specific needs and ensure your teeth and gums remain healthy.


Veneers are thin, custom-built shells designed to cover the front surface of the teeth.

They can improve the appearance of teeth that are discolored, chipped, worn down, or misaligned. Porcelain and composite resin are the two most common materials used for veneers, each with benefits and limitations.

Porcelain veneers are more durable and stain-resistant, while composite resin veneers can be less expensive and require less tooth surface removal.

A dental professional will discuss the best option for you based on your specific needs and desired results.

Dental Implants

Dental implants are an effective way to replace missing or lost teeth.

The procedure involves inserting a titanium post into the jawbone, which then acts as an artificial tooth root. Once the implant has fused with the bone, a crown is placed on top to mimic the appearance of a natural tooth.

Implants can restore function and aesthetics to a patient's smile, often providing a long-lasting solution for missing teeth.

It is crucial to consult with a dental professional to determine if dental implants are suitable for you, as certain health factors and bone density play a significant role in their success.

Is Orthodontics Cosmetic Dentistry? The Overlap.

Orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry are two different fields within the dental profession, but they sometimes overlap in the treatments and results they aim to achieve.

While orthodontics primarily focuses on correcting the positioning of the teeth and jaws, cosmetic dentistry improves the teeth' appearance.

One of the key reasons for the overlap between these fields is that both aim to enhance a patient's smile and overall facial aesthetics.

An experienced dental professional might employ a combination of orthodontic and cosmetic approaches to create a personalized treatment plan for a patient, considering their unique needs and goals. In such cases, orthodontic treatment often lays the groundwork by aligning the teeth and jaws before cosmetic interventions.

Is Orthodontics Cosmetic Dentistry? Final Thoughts.

Is orthodontics cosmetic dentistry?

No, but the specialties overlap, and some patients may require both specialists for a good outcome.

Have a tooth issue and don't know which one you need?

Consult with both to get a professional opinion. Start your search for the right dentist in California with Golden State Dentists.

Good luck!

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