If Mother Nature didn’t bless you will a great smile, today’s cosmetic dentistry can give you that “Hollywood smile” you’ve always wanted. Cosmetic dentists can reshape worn teeth, straighten crooked smiles, and replace teeth that are missing, which can have an enormous impact. Beyond improving your appearance, cosmetic dentistry can benefit you in numerous other ways. Being able to smile without embarrassment helps build your self-confidence, putting you more at ease at work and in social situations. It can even enhance your career! But first you’ve got to find the right dentist for the job.

Ask for referrals. If you have a relative or friend who’s had cosmetic dental work, ask how satisfied they are with the result. If you already go to or know a dentist who doesn’t perform cosmetic procedures, ask them for recommendations. They might also recommend other specialists depending on your situation before you undergo the cosmetic treatment.

Look at online reviews and local publications. Patient reviews and testimonials can tell you a lot about dental procedure success and the overall office atmosphere. A simple search can yield a wealth of information from past patients on the cosmetic dentist you’re considering. Look at before and after photos and verify that the practice has the technology required to perform procedures you might be interested in.

One excellent way to validate the credentials of a cosmetic dentist is to find out if they’re a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). Members of the AACD receive extensive training beyond dental school on the latest advances and techniques in cosmetic dentistry. They’re also required to pass rigorous written and oral exams and take regular continuing education classes to keep abreast of the latest developments in cosmetic dentistry. You can also check the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners, which has licensee information available online.

Consider their location. This might seem trivial, but cosmetic procedures can sometimes require multiple office visits, and you probably want a dentist who is reasonably close to your home or work. You may also consider in-office comforts such as various types of sedation, headphones, or less intrusive x-ray technology and 3D scanning.

Ask about payment options. Talk to your insurance company to see what sorts of services it covers, and confirm with the practice that they will accept the type of payment you’d prefer—or if they offer payment options that will make the cost of service reasonable for your budget.

Schedule an initial consultation. Done correctly, cosmetic dentistry is safe, effective and long lasting. But done incorrectly, it can lead to long-term problems. During the consultation, explain what outcome you desire and listen carefully to the treatment options they propose and the outcome they expect. And don’t hesitate to ask questions about any lingering doubts you may have.

Finally, as you’re considering your options, remember that a strong, beautiful smile can build your self-confidence and open doors of opportunity you never knew existed—while it can sometimes come with an investment of time and money, the dividends are hard to place a price on.