Cosmetic Dentists: Job Description & Career Info

A cosmetic dentist focuses on the improvement of a patient's mouth, teeth, and smile. Cosmetic dentistry uses new technology and lasers to perform treatments. Read on to learn more about becoming a cosmetic dentist.

Career Definition for a Cosmetic Dentist

A cosmetic dentist enhances patients' smiles by correcting cracked, chipped, uneven, and discolored teeth. Cosmetic dentists use a variety of methods to improve patients' smiles, including porcelain veneers, bridges, crowns, fillings, bonding, and whitening techniques.

Education Doctor of Dental Surgery degree, completion of a residency program
Licensure All states require licensure for dentists
Job Skills Eye for aesthetics, understanding of new technology in the field, business and interpersonal skills
Median Salary (2015)* $171,000 for all specialist dentists not otherwise categorized
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% for all specialist dentists not otherwise categorized

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

Completion of a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree program, plus a residency program and state licensure are needed to practice. Many students who enter dental school have a Bachelor of Science degree in a field like biology, chemistry, or a related field, and applicants must score well on the Dental Admission Test. A Doctor of Dental Surgery degree program includes instruction in anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, laboratory techniques, anesthesia, radiology, and periodontology. To become a specialty dentist, a postdoctoral residency in the particular field of study is required. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), becoming a member of the AACD furthers education and growth opportunities.


All states require dentists to be licensed, which involves earning an approved degree and passing standard examinations. Specialty dentists must also earn certification in their field.

Skills Required

A cosmetic dentist must have an excellent aesthetic eye and know how to use and understand the latest technological advancements in cosmetic dentistry. Cosmetic dentists must have good business and interpersonal skills, and they should understand how to run their own practice.

Economic and Career Outlook

Some dentists own their own practices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of specialist dentists not otherwise categorized is predicted to increase by 9% in between 2014 and 2024, and cosmetic dental treatments should be especially in demand. The BLS also listed that specialist dentists who were not placed into another category, like cosmetic dentists, had a median annual salary of $171,000 a year in May 2015.

Alternate Career Options

For other medical careers in areas focused around the human head, check out these options:


Requiring a similar amount of education and licensing as dentists, optometrists look for vision problems and disease while completing eye exams. They also prescribe contact lenses and eyeglasses. Much faster-than-average employment growth of 27% was projected by the BLS from 2014-2024. According to the BLS, these professionals earned an annual median salary of $103,900 in 2015.

Dental Hygienist

Those wishing to work in the dental field but preferring to enter their profession more quickly might pursue this occupation. Upon earning an associate's degree in dental hygiene, students must pass a qualifying licensure test. These professionals clean and examine teeth, in addition to educating patients about oral health. Much faster-than-average employment growth of 19% was expected by the BLS from 2014-2024. The median annual wage for dental hygienists in 2015 was $72,330, per the BLS.

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