Restorative Dentistry vs. Cosmetic Dentistry: What’s The Difference?

Dr. Christopher Li Etobicoke - Li Family Dental

By Dr. Christopher Li

November 7, 2022

cosmetic dentistry, dental health, restorative dentistry, restorative dentistry vs. cosmetic dentistry

Dentists don’t just provide important treatments to help you maintain your dental health. We also help treat your smile. As a result, we offer both restorative and cosmetic dentistry services. If you are wondering what the difference is between restorative dentistry vs. cosmetic dentistry, here we provide an overview of the benefits and requirements for both.

Restorative Dentistry

restorative dentistry

What is restorative dentistry? Restorative dentistry is used to “restore” damaged teeth. Treatments include procedures such as fillings or root canals. However, it also includes treatments for other damaged oral structures such as your gums. Restorative dentistry focuses on returning proper function to your teeth, bite, and gums and is therefore, a required treatment we recommend. When it comes to treatments, if you have dental benefits most standard restorative treatments are covered to some extent. We can provide a pre-determination of the costs and let you know if our recommended treatment plan is covered.

Reasons You Might Need Restorative Dental Treatments

Reasons You Might Need Restorative Dental Treatments

Restorative dental treatments are required for several reasons, including:

  • You experience symptoms such as pain or bleeding gums
  • You damage a tooth
  • Issues are detected at your dental checkups
  • Emergencies such as a hit to the mouth or face that damage your teeth
  • Infections such as abscesses
  • Issues with your bite, jaw, or gums

Your dentist will provide a diagnosis and recommend the appropriate restorative treatment when any of these issues occur.

Types Of Restorative Dentistry Treatments

The most common restorative dentistry treatments that might be required include:


restorative dentistry - dental fillings

Fillings are the most common dental treatment. They are used to repair cavities caused by tooth decay. These holes must be filled to prevent further damage. The decay is first removed, then a bonding substance is used to “fill” the hole.


dental crowns for restorative dentistry

When a tooth is too damaged for a simple filling, crowns are required to protect the tooth. They allow you to maintain the damaged tooth, and more importantly, the tooth root. They are a form of artificial teeth made of porcelain or other materials and are permanently affixed over your damaged tooth using strong dental cement.


dental bridge

Bridges are required when a damaged tooth can’t be saved, or when you lose a tooth or a string of teeth. The tooth replacement itself is a crown, which is affixed with a bridge secured to the teeth on either side of the gap. They can also be inserted using dental implants, explained in more detail below.


restorative dentistry vs. cosmetic dentistry - dental implants

Dental implants are the ultimate tooth replacement, using implanted posts surgically inserted into your jawbone. Crowns or bridges are “screwed” onto the posts, providing a tooth that looks natural with posts that mimic your tooth root to prevent bone loss.

Root Canals

root canal is restorative dentistry treatment

Root canals are required when you have infected tooth pulp. This is the softest, innermost part of your tooth. We remove the infected tissue and plug up the canal, then cap the tooth with a crown.

Cosmetic Dentistry


cosmetic dentistry improves appearance of your smile

Cosmetic dentistry addresses the appearance of your teeth. It provides solutions to correct many smile woes, whether it is orthodontics to straighten teeth, whitening to reduce staining for a pearly white smile, or other treatments to help cover up imperfections. Some treatments are used for both restorative and cosmetic issues.

For example, orthodontics improves bite function, but also straightens crooked teeth. Because cosmetic dental treatments are not always functionally “necessary” you can ask your dentist to provide these services. In most cases, because cosmetic treatments are not required to help you maintain dental health, they are usually not covered by a typical insurance package. If you have dental insurance, never assume your cosmetic treatment will be fully or even partially covered. Again, we can determine what is covered, and provide payment options to help you achieve your smile goals.

Reasons You Might Consider Cosmetic Dentistry


There are many reasons you might consider cosmetic dentistry, including:

  • Tooth discolouration
  • Chips
  • Gaps and overlaps
  • Gummy smiles
  • Teeth that appear misshapen

An imperfect smile can cause self-esteem issues which can keep you from enjoying life to its fullest. With the right cosmetic treatment plan, you can enjoy a perfect smile, often for less money than you think. Just mention your smile concerns to our team, and we’ll help you achieve the perfect smile you’ve always wanted.

What Procedures Are Considered Cosmetic Dentistry?

When you are looking for cosmetic solutions for your smile, there are several treatments we can recommend, including:


dental bonding is considered cosmetic dentistry

Bonding can be used to resolve many imperfections, including chips, gaps, misshapen teeth and to replace dark fillings. Bonding uses putty to reshape and correct aesthetic issues. The material used is matched to your teeth colour and is adhered to your teeth for a seamless finish. It is also used to replace dark older fillings that can be noticeable when you laugh or yawn.


tooth whitening is a cosmetic dentistry procedure

This is a very popular cosmetic treatment to help bring back that brilliant white smile. It is the best way to restore the white of natural teeth, but whitening isn’t suited for people with crowns, bonding, or veneers. The whitening agent doesn’t work on artificial materials. It is also not a permanent solution as the stains will return over time. We can discuss your options and come up with a whitening plan to brighten your smile.


dental crowns can be for cosmetic reasons

Although we mentioned crowns as a restorative treatment, they are also known as caps. This is because they have long been the cosmetic treatment of choice for people looking for that Hollywood perfect smile. The caps cover up just about any imperfection, but they do require your natural tooth to be filed down, so this is something to consider.


dental veneers are considered cosmetic dentistry

Veneers are thin shells designed to fit over your teeth to hide imperfections. They can be used for gaps, permanent discolouration, and in some cases to cover up alignment issues without the need for braces. The veneer is glued to the front of your teeth, creating a uniformed, attractive smile.

We are here to resolve your dental issues whether your teeth are damaged, or you are trying to achieve that picture-perfect smile.

Give us a call at 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.

Dr. Christopher Li

About the author

Doctor Christopher Li, DDS
Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.  Dr. Chris loves sharing information with his patients and everyone who has teeth about how to care for their teeth, avoid tooth decay, and the treatments available to help them overcome their tooth pain or other dental issues so they can enjoy life and food to its fullest!

Never miss a good story!

 Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with the latest trends!