Cosmetic Dentist: Career and Salary Facts

Find out about careers and salaries in cosmetic dentistry. Discover the job duties, career outlook and education required to work as a cosmetic dentist. Schools offering Dental Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Cosmetic Dentist Do?

The duties of a cosmetic dentist depend on their specialization within the field of dentistry. Of the nine specialization areas, orthodontics and prosthodontics are the two most closely related to cosmetic dentistry. Orthodontists use braces and other appliances to straighten teeth and correct jaw alignment problems, while prosthodontists replace missing teeth and construct dentures. General dentists also provide some cosmetic dentistry services, such as tooth whitening, decay removal and crack repair.

The table below provides information on this career:

Education Required Bachelor's degree, dental school, postgraduate program in prosthodontics or orthodontics
Education Field of Study Dentistry, specialization in prosthodontics or orthodontics
Key Responsibilities Diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect oral aesthetics
License/Certification State license and specialty board certification
Job Growth (2014-24) 18%* for all dentists
Median Salary (2017) $140,000** for cosmetic dentists
  • U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

What Is Cosmetic Dentistry?

Cosmetic dentistry is the practice of improving the dental aesthetics of patients. This can be accomplished through a wide variety of practices including, but certainly not limited to, orthodontics, tooth whitening, enamel repair, enamel shaping, veneers and bonding. Cosmetic dentistry is currently not recognized by the American Dental Association as a dental specialty. However, this doesn't mean that it isn't widely practiced in many clinics and hospitals all over the world. In fact, a great number of dental clinics are devoted to cosmetic dentistry specifically.

Becoming a Cosmetic Dentist

If you have at least a bachelor's degree in a related field and a GPA well above 3.0, the first step towards becoming a cosmetic dentist is enrolling in a dentistry program where you can earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) of Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. While no doctorate programs are offered in cosmetic dentistry specifically, you can take many classes that cover the discipline. A few such classes are orthodontics, dental aesthetics, prosthodontics (the branch of dentistry that deals with supplemental or 'false' teeth) and radiology. Upon graduation, it's not uncommon for schools offering DDS degree programs to have job placement in clinics and hospitals.

What Careers Are There?

Upon graduation, you can pursue a variety of careers in cosmetic dentistry. One possibility is to go into academia as a secondary school professor, researcher or both. It's also possible to get involved with research for medical institutions or pharmaceutical companies. A common career path is to become a practicing dentist, using cosmetic dentistry techniques in a clinic or hospital.

As a working, professional cosmetic dentist, you can continue your education and make sure that you remain on the cutting edge of the field. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry is the only organization that can provide you with official accreditation in cosmetic dentistry. You may also choose to join the American Society for Dental Aesthetics keep up with developments in cosmetic dentistry and attend continuing education seminars.

What Is the Job Market Like?

A DDS or DMD degree can lead to strong employment opportunities and high salaries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment for all dentists will grow by 18% between 2014-2024 ( In May 2015, the BLS also stated that the median wage of general dentists was $158,310. The median salaries for prosthodontists and orthodontists, who may deal more closely with cosmetic dentistry procedures, were around $119,740 and over $187,200, respectively. According to in February 2017, the median salary for a cosmetic dentist was $140,000 per year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of focusing on cosmetics, some dentists pursue specialization areas that focus on oral health and/or functionality. For instance, it is possible to complete a postgraduate program to become an endodontist, oral pathologist or periodontist. For those looking for professional careers in cosmetics, another option is a job as a plastic surgeon. This job requires a four-year medical degree and a postgraduate residency program in plastic and reconstructive surgery.

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