Dentists and orthodontists are doctors who specialize in oral healthcare. Doctors who study general dentistry are trained to diagnose and treat conditions of your gums, teeth, tongue, and mouth.
Orthodontists also receive this training, but they get additional education in order to specialize in diagnosing and treating misalignments of your teeth and jaws.
This article will explain more about how orthodontists and dentists differ so that you can decide which type of doctor you need to see.
Dentists are doctors of oral health. Typically, dentists go to college for a pre-dentistry or pre-medical degree before going on to a graduate school of dentistry.
Like all doctors, dentists are required to be extensively trained in their practice before becoming certified. About 80 percent of dentists practice what’s known as general dentistry.
Certified dentists can diagnose and treat oral health conditions of your teeth, gums, tongue, and mouth. They’re also able to clean your teeth, but dental hygienists usually take care of that.
Dentists provide the following care:
- conduct and interpret dental X-rays
- fill cavities
- extract teeth
- repair cracked teeth
- promote oral health and oral hygiene
- fill and bond teeth
- treat gum disease, such as gingivitis
- prescribe treatment, including prescription drugs, for oral health conditions
- whiten teeth
- install crowns or veneers
- oversee the development of children’s teeth
- perform oral surgery
Orthodontists are also doctors of oral health. Technically, they’re a kind of dentist with a specialty in tooth and jaw alignment.
Certified orthodontists are trained to diagnose and treat oral health conditions of your teeth, gums, and mouth. But mostly, orthodontists focus on making sure your teeth and jaw are set correctly.
Orthodontists do the following:
- supervise facial growth (jawline and bite) in children
- diagnose and treat misaligned teeth and jaws (malocclusion)
- create a treatment plan that includes braces and retainers
- perform teeth straightening surgery
- install dental appliances, such as braces, palatal expanders, orthodontic headgear, or Herbst appliances
Dentists and orthodontists get a lot of the same education. Orthodontists are required to receive an additional educational certification before going into practice.
Typically, dentists go to college for a pre-dentistry or pre-medical degree before going on to a graduate school of dentistry.
Like all doctors, dentists are required to be extensively trained in their practice, completing a residency before being able to get certified. Certification requires passing a comprehensive exam.
Like all doctors, dentists are required to be extensively trained in their practice. The first two years of dental school take place in the classroom and lab. During the last two years, dentists work with patients under the supervision of a licensed dental school.
After completing dental school, dentists must take and pass the National Dental Examination to become licensed professionals.
Orthodontists also typically pursue a pre-dentistry or pre-medical major in their undergraduate degree before entering dentistry school.
After completing dental school and taking the certification test, orthodontists attend an orthodontic residency program for an additional 2 to 3 years to get a specialty certification in orthodontics.
According to the American Board of Orthodontics, orthodontists can go into practice after completing additional certification tests.
Think of your dentist as a general practitioner and your orthodontist as a specialist. Most standard dental issues can be resolved by a trip to the dentist.
Tooth pain, tooth decay, tooth repair, and tooth extraction can all be diagnosed and treated by your dentist. They can also treat gum disease, oral inflammation, and oral infections.
There may be cases when a dentist refers you to an orthodontist. Jaw malocclusion, tooth crowding, and palate expansion may all require the input of an orthodontist.
It’s also recommended that all children be assessed by an orthodontist before age 7 to see if braces will be needed. If you’re an adult and suspect you have a crooked jawline or teeth that need to be aligned, you might consider skipping the dentist and going straight to the orthodontist.
Not all orthodontic care will be covered by insurance, even if you have dental coverage. An orthodontist is technically considered a specialist. In some cases, your insurance company will require a referral from a dentist before they’ll pay for your visit to the orthodontist’s office.
Dentists and orthodontists are two types of doctors who receive extensive practice diagnosing and treating oral health conditions. There are some things that orthodontists are certified to do that dentists aren’t.
Orthodontists receive additional training, which qualifies them to install braces and diagnose a misaligned jaw. If you’re wondering whether you need to see an orthodontist, you start by asking your dentist if you need a referral.