What is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

posted by Muse Dental Group   September 8, 2020

Are you wondering if you should see a dentist or orthodontist? Or are you hoping to learn more about the differences between them? Then this article for you!

While dentists and orthodontists have many similarities, they differ in terms of training, areas of practice, and the services they offer.

Let’s learn about the differences between an orthodontist and a dentist, and hopefully provide some clarity on who you should consult.

We’ll explore this theme in these key points:

Orthodontist vs Dentist: The overview

Orthodontists and dentists are both doctors that help you improve your oral health, in different ways.

On the one hand, dentists treat a patient’s overall dental health.

They improve and maintain the health of your teeth, gums, jaw, and nerves.

Dental checkups help a dentist diagnose gum disease, spot cavities, and target oral hygiene issues.

A dentist can also improve the appearance and function of your teeth with cosmetic dentistry services.

On the other hand, orthodontists specialize in the alignment of the teeth and the jaw.

According to the AAO (American Association of Orthodontists) :

“Orthodontists diagnose, prevent, intercept, and treat dental and facial irregularities.”

In other words, orthodontists will treat conditions where the teeth and the jaw are misaligned (ex: teeth too far apart, too crowded, jaw malocclusion...etc.) and more.

Orthodontist vs Dentist: Education and qualifications

An orthodontist and dentist will follow a similar educational path, but they are some notable differences.

Both orthodontists and dentists earn an undergraduate degree from college before going to a graduate school for dentistry. Combined together, the undergraduate and graduate dental degrees take about 7 to 8 years to complete.

After graduation from dental school, dentists must pass a national exam and a state or regional clinical licensing exam before they can practice.

Licensed dentists have the title DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry or Doctor of Dental Medicine) after their names.

After earning a graduate dental degree, orthodontists must aquire additional training.

This specialized education includes a two to three year residency with a focus on orthodontics. This residency allows them to get their specialty certification in orthodontics and to start practicing.

All orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are licensed to practice orthodontics.

What does a dentist do?

As mentioned earlier, dentists improve and treat your overall oral health. They make sure that your teeth and gums are healthy and disease-free! However, it is important to visit your dentist twice a year to help maintain your oral health.

Dentists also offer cosmetic dentistry services that improve the appearance of your teeth and help repair a chipped, broken, or decayed tooth.

Here are the type of services that dentists generally offer to their patients:

  • Gum disease treatment

  • Tooth decay

  • Teeth extraction

  • Root canals

  • Crowns

  • Bridges

  • Veneers

  • Teeth whitening

What does an orthodontist do?

Orthodontists specialize in the alignment of teeth and the jaw and diagnose issues related to misaligned teeth and to the jawline and bite (Crossbite, Underbite, Overbite...etc.).

An orthodontist will create a specialized treatment plan to make sure that your teeth and jaw are positioned correctly.

Some services orthodontists offer to thier patients include:

  • Diagnose misaligned teeth and other jaw and bite issues

  • Create a specialized treatment plan which can include: Braces, Retainers, Invisalign retainers, and Orthodontics headgear

  • Perform tooth alignment surgery

  • Supervise the jawline and bite growth for children

Should I see a dentist or orthodontist?

It isn’t always simple to know when to consult a dentist or an orthodontist for your case. Here are a few pointers to help you choose the right doctor for you.

If you’re looking for more general dentistry services, then a dentist will be able to effectively help you. When visiting your dentist, you can get standard services like teeth cleaning and whitening.

You can also get more specialized services like dental exams and treatment for tooth and gum related disease. A dentist may also refer you to an orthodontist if needed.

If you are hoping to correct misalignment in the teeth or jaw, you should consult an orthodontist. Your orthodontist will be able to evaluate your condition and find the best solutions to restore the alignment of your teeth, jaw, and bite.

If you want to consult a dental professional to get braces or a retainer, like the Invisalign retainer, visit an orthodontist.

Your orthodontist will put on the braces or will provide you with a custom retainer for your teeth.

An orthodontist will also perform teeth straightening surgery if needed.

Orthodontist vs Dentist: Conclusion

Orthodontists and dentists are doctors that improve and maintain your dental health. Their areas of practice sound similar, however, they don’t perform the same services.

A dentist will improve your overall oral health. This includes diagnosing cavities and spotting the symptoms of gum disease.

Your dentist will suggest appropriate treatment and extract teeth if necessary. A dentist can also improve the appearance of your teeth by applying crowns, veneers, bridges to a decayed, chipped, or broken tooth.

An orthodontist specializes in aligning the teeth, bite, and jaw. They help you restore and improve the function and overall appearance of your teeth.

Your orthodontist will recommend the best dental solutions for your teeth, such as braces, or retainers.

At Muse Dental Group, we offer both dentistry and orthodontics services.

We cover all your dental needs with care and dedication. Our experienced team is always here to advise you and offer you a fantastic patient experience.

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