Orthodontists vs Dentists: What is The Difference?

Dentists vs. Orthodontists:

Both dentists and orthodontists play crucial roles in providing oral healthcare services and treatments. In this article, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between these two professionals to help you discern which doctor to visit for your specific oral health needs.

What Are Dentists?

Dentists are oral healthcare professionals who hold pre-dentistry degrees and graduate from dental school. Like all medical doctors, dentists undergo extensive training and gain substantial knowledge before they can practice in a clinical setting. Most dentists specialize in general practice.

Certified dentists are skilled in diagnosing, preventing, and treating a wide range of oral health issues concerning teeth, gums, tongue, and the mouth. They are capable of performing teeth cleaning, applying fillings, teeth whitening, and more. In some dental practices, dental hygienists may assist dentists in carrying out teeth cleaning procedures.

What Are Orthodontists?

Orthodontists are specialized doctors who focus on diagnosing, preventing, and treating oral healthcare conditions related to teeth and jaw alignment. After completing dental school, orthodontists undergo additional education and training to become experts in teeth and jaw correction alignment.

Certified orthodontists concentrate on treatments for misaligned teeth, facial bones, and jaws. They offer services such as personalized treatment plans for braces, aligners, and retainers, conducting teeth alignment surgeries, and installing various dental appliances like braces and orthodontic headgear. Additionally, they may oversee and manage facial bone growth in children.

Orthodontists vs. Dentists: Similarities

While there are distinct differences between dentists and orthodontists, they also share commonalities in their practice:

  1. Oral Care Diagnosis and Treatments: Both certified dentists and orthodontists are proficient in diagnosing and treating oral health issues, with the common goal of promoting a healthy and attractive smile, healthy teeth, gums, and mouth.
  2. Orthodontists Are Dentists: It is important to note that all orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists. Orthodontists possess the skills to perform the same treatments and procedures as dentists, with the added expertise in orthodontics obtained through further schooling and training.

Orthodontists vs. Dentists: Differences

Though both dentists and orthodontists specialize in oral healthcare, their education, training, and services vary:

  1. Education & Training:
    • Dentists: Dentists and orthodontists undergo the same foundational schooling, including pre-dentistry degrees and dental school. Dentists complete their residency and receive comprehensive training before becoming certified. During the last two years of dental school, dentists treat patients under the supervision of licensed dental professionals. After graduation, they must pass the National Dental Examination to obtain their license.
    • Orthodontists: In addition to their general dental education, orthodontists must complete an orthodontic residency program, which usually takes two to three years. After finishing the program, they can pursue specialty certification for orthodontics. Some orthodontists may also seek further certifications through the American Board of Orthodontics.
  2. Services:
    • Dentists: Certified dentists are qualified to practice general dentistry and can offer a variety of treatments and procedures. However, it’s essential to understand that not all dentists are specialists in every treatment. While dentists can perform tooth extractions and root canals, specific sub-specializations within dentistry, like oral surgery or endodontics, require additional certification.
    • Orthodontists: Orthodontists primarily focus on their specialization, which encompasses teeth, facial bones, jaws, and soft tissue oral healthcare services. Despite this specialization, orthodontists are also capable of providing and executing all the services that general dentists offer.

Choosing Between an Orthodontist and a Dentist

Determining whether to visit an orthodontist or a dentist depends on your specific oral healthcare needs:

  • Visit a Dentist If:
    • You require regular dental services, such as teeth cleaning, decay treatment, extraction, or repair, addressing oral inflammation, gum problems, and infections.
  • Visit an Orthodontist If:
    • You need treatment for tooth crowding, teeth alignment issues, palate expansion, or jaw malocclusion.

In some cases, dentists may refer their patients to an orthodontist when specialized treatment is necessary.

Importance of Early Assessment by an Orthodontist

For parents with children, it is crucial to have their oral health assessed by an orthodontist early on. Early diagnosis of misaligned teeth or jaw issues allows for faster treatment, minimizing potential oral healthcare problems in the future.

Ensuring regular visits to the dentist and, when required, consulting an orthodontist, will help maintain a healthy and attractive smile and overall oral well-being.

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Stevie Flavio
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