PHILIP FEAR, a radiologist, has helped build a physicians’ group in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to over 20 doctors. And his successful practice means that he is often asked to give lectures to medical groups.

“I’m a happy person,” Dr. Fear, 49, said.

But until last year, he was reluctant to smile because his teeth were badly stained from a combination of genetic factors and tetracycline, an antibiotic he took as a child. Worse, in 2005, he let a dentist talk him into a gold crown on a tooth, on the basis that it would last forever while a porcelain one would have to be replaced in 20 years.

“He said you wouldn’t notice it, but I noticed it,” Dr. Fear said. “There would be this North Star in pictures.”

So last fall, he spent $60,000 to have porcelain veneers put on his teeth. “I feel more confident,” he said. “I feel a lot better about my teeth.”

Dr. Fear is among a growing number of people who are spending tens of thousands of dollars to look a little bit better. These aren’t the people going under the knife to stretch their face taut, suck out the effects of overeating or inflate, deflate or reinflate parts of their bodies. Instead, these are people who believe that a little work will make a difference in their careers and their perceptions of themselves and can afford to pay for it.

“Patients are looking for, ‘How do I look better, but I have no time to recuperate in my bed for a week,’ ” said Michael Gold, a dermatologist whose practice in Nashville is about 30 percent cosmetic work. “The trend in all of cosmetic surgery since Botox came out is totally noninvasive procedures. Their numbers are going up.”

Mr. Gold performs skin-tightening procedures using a thermal treatment. It breaks down the fat cells and makes the skin look tighter without much pain or redness.

He said a popular thermal treatment, from EndyMed, costs $300 to $400 a treatment in Nashville, and most people need a half-dozen treatments to improve an area. The same procedure in a city like New York could cost $1,000 a treatment, he said.