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What is Conservative Cosmetic Dentistry?

Most doctors take the hippocratic oath upon becoming a licensed doctor, stating amongst other things, that they promise to “do no harm.” While that isn’t directly written into the original text of the oath, it is widely accepted as a promise made by all medical professionals to their patients when providing treatment. The same applies for dental physicians. In fact,  Michael Sesemann, DDS, upon giving his 2009 American Academy of Cosmetic Den­tistry (AACD) Presidential Inaugural Speech, said the following: “Esthetic dentistry should complement the overall general health of the patient—and, above all, do no harm..” This philosophy extends into research that is currently being done to discover less invasive procedures to perform in contrast to some older, more invasive practices. This type of dentistry, also known as conservative cosmetic dentistry, is gaining traction and some speculation amongst patients and scholars alike. Let’s discuss what this subsection of dentistry is and how it can benefit you and your loved ones!

What is Conservative Cosmetic Dentistry?

Conservative cosmetic dentistry’s focus is to conserve as much of the tooth’s structure and enamel when performing dental procedures.One example of this type of dentistry is providing tooth-colored restorations that minimizes the disfigurement of a patient’s natural tooth structure. By protecting and preserving the natural tooth makeup, the need for further restorations is limited. Another example is when dentists need to remove plaque, decay, or disease from a tooth or teeth, they will do so in a conservative manner and only remove what is absolutely necessary from the shape of the tooth and no more. Overall, in this form of dental practice, the belief is that structure-sparing approaches should be used prior to other, more invasive tactics whenever and wherever possible. “It is all about preserving the God-given enamel…”!


Most experts agree that treatment opinions are often in contrast to each other. However, for those professionals that embrace the conservative approach, the treatments that can most benefit from this thinking are those that could be considered esthetic, such as bleaching or whitening, then orthodontics, bonding, veneers, and even full crown installations. For bonding in particular, the dentist is able to take an impression and connect the veneers without removing much of the patient’s tooth configuration, also known as “no-prep veneers.” In general, the goal is to be dedicated to the functionality of the teeth and mouth is of utmost priority, followed by esthetics.


Even the most well-intentioned dentists may want to provide “quick fixes” to patients using contours that may not be the best options for the patient’s oral health. There are concerns over-contouring when treating a patient’s teeth. Another treatment that is recommended is to allow the ceramic to blend into the contour of the patient’s natural tooth shape without involving too much pre-shaping or preparation. The end goal is to affect the foundation as minimally as possible without sacrificing the patient’s oral health.

Why Have Some Dentists Adopted This Philosophy?

There are several reasons why this method of dental conservation works; each reason focuses on better and more efficient treatment for the patient! 

One reason is that patients can take a staggered approach to their treatment, still reaching their long-term dental goals in the procedures that are happening, but in a way that is gradual and systematic. This is beneficial to the patient not only for financial reasons, but for their peace of mind, as well. 

In the same manner, procedures done with this philosophy in mind take less of the base of the tooth’s makeup, making any future treatments to the same area easier and less invasive as the main structure of the tooth/teeth is still available for use, minimizing the need for a complete crown. You may LOVE the cosmetic dentist near you, but future visits will not be needed as often!

Of course, cost is vital to the patient as well. Because treatments of this kind are less invasive, they are inherently less expensive but remain high-quality. The cost of the procedure never trumps the oral health of the patient ultimately; they are both of equal consideration. In summary, the goal of providers with this mindset of treatment is to provide the best care, making sure that no additional invasiveness is used just for the sake of time or simplicity. The treatment is given in a conservative manner for both the structure of the patients oral structures and their wallets!


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