Cosmetic dentistry isn't all tooth whitening bleaches and veneers. While making your smile a stand-out is a major goal of this dental specialty, keeping your mouth healthy is equally as important. From dental extractions to crowns, cosmetic pros use time-tested techniques and modern-day materials to do more than just fix your looks.

What can cosmetic dentistry do for you? If "create a pretty smile" is the only thought that comes to mind, consider some of these not-so-obvious effects:

1. Boosts self-confidence. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), cosmetic dentistry can improve your self-esteem. Sometimes a whitening procedure doesn't just mean making your teeth lighter. It can also make your self-perception brighter. Your smile is one of the first things that people notice about you. If you're not happy with how it looks, your self-esteem can take a dive. Whether you go for a bleaching procedure, get dental crowns, have an extraction to fix overcrowding or any other cosmetic service, the healthy smile that flashes back at you when you look in the mirror will evoke confidence.

2. Alleviates discomfort. Cosmetic dental procedures can make your mouth healthier by opening up space, removing disease or repairing chipped teeth. For example, dental extractions can eliminate overcrowding. When the dentist removes an extra tooth or one that is causing the rest of your teeth to scrunch and bunch, your mouth will look and feel better.

3. Offers easy-to-maintain options. Some cosmetic dentistry procedures offer easy upkeep when it comes to keeping your smile bright. Porcelain dental crowns require relatively little maintenance after they are installed, notes the AACD. With regular brushing, the pearly color and gleam of a new crown can stay put. That said, some dental materials (such as porcelain on crowns or veneers) can stain if you don't properly care for them. Lack of brushing, drinking or eating staining beverages and foods and skipping dental appointments may lead to early discoloration.

4. Delivers fast results. While at-home whitening strips brighten your smile, they aren't exactly convenient. If you don't have the time – or the patience – to wait weeks for your teeth to gradually grow whiter, an in-office treatment by a cosmetic dentist can save you time. A one-time, in-office bleaching and laser session can easily fit into a busy schedule. Likewise, fixing discolored teeth with veneers or crowns takes less time than weeks of whitening that you need to repeat year after year.

From extracting teeth that are responsible for overcrowding to fixing breaks and chips with crowns and veneers, cosmetic dentistry doesn't just make you look better. Even though the "cosmetic" part of the title is a major part of this type of dentistry, it also provides a long-lasting way to keep your mouth healthy and your self-esteem up.