is cosmetic dentistry dead?

Not much changed in Dentistry during the 80’s and the 90’s. We worried about catching Aids and took to wearing gloves, ICI invented white fillings and a few early adopters started placing Implants. Some of us left the Health Service to pursue the private patient pound after the government imposed a ridiculous new NHS contract.

Around the turn of the millennium, an American dentist, Larry Rosenthal, started lecturing in the UK about cosmetic dentistry (specifically “Smile Design”). This coincided with a phenomenal rise in the popularity of celebrity culture and a media that embraced the new reality TV shows where ordinary folk became celebrities overnight. Within 5 short years, everyone seemed to want “straight white teeth”. (Have a look at the teeth of actors in TV shows from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s compared to current soap stars and you will see what I mean!) So, Cosmetic Dentistry was born and those quick to spot an opportunity got on with marketing themselves as “Cosmetic Dentists”. Now, almost every dental practice web site I look at announces that the practice offers, “General (or worse “routine”) and Cosmetic Dentistry”. I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to have “non-cosmetic” (ugly?) dentistry in 2012.

I’m old enough to remember the days when we had a British Car Industry and some of the cars were very innovative. Many of the advances in engineering and design made the cars of the day perform better and break down less often. Such innovations were often announced on the boot lid either with a badge or a sticker. In the 60’s many cars carried the sticker, “Disc Brakes!” presumably as a warning not to follow too closely behind unless you had similarly effective stopping power. In the 70’s the i suffix denoted fuel injection offering a significant performance advantage over cars fitted with a humble carburettor. Today, we take it for granted that our cars can stop with their universally fitted disc brakes and that the fuel is metered electronically by clever fuel injection systems and of course, these badges have disappeared from car boot lids only to be replaced with contemporary equivalents such as: Hybrid, e-motion and ?

So, what’s all this to do with Cosmetic Dentistry? Well, surely all dentistry is cosmetic now in the sense that we accept that all of our patients want straight white teeth and therefore, all the restorative solutions we offer should be “cosmetic”. (I don’t believe that dentists are still, willingly putting a silver and mercury alloy into their patients’ teeth?) Dentists now have a comprehensive tool box of solutions to help patients have the smile they wish for, either when their teeth need repairing or when they seek to improve on what they were born with. Patients expect dentists to provide aesthetic solutions, so, can we find a better way of telling them that, yes, we can!

I suggest that a more powerful message for your referral cards, signage or web sites than, “General and Cosmetic Dentistry” is a message that says we are listening to your concerns about receiving dental care and we have addressed them. A more powerful message that would bring new patients to your reception desk might include these promises:


  • We are gentle dentists and we won’t hurt you.
  • We understand that dentistry may be a significant investment and therefore we provide flexible payment options.
  • Our appointment times are designed to suit your busy lifestyle and we are always available to discuss your personal requirements.
  • (And of course) We will always provide you with a cosmetic solution!

If you would like some help with bringing more new patients into your practice then contact me on 07770 430576 or

Best wishes


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