Dentists vs. Orthodontists

It is important to understand the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist. A dentist is a general practitioner who treats all aspects of oral health, while an orthodontist specializes in correcting dental problems related to the alignment of teeth. In most cases, you will need to see an orthodontist for specialized treatment, while your dentist can provide basic dental care and advice.

If you are not sure whether you need to see a dentist or an orthodontist, the best thing to do is to visit your orthodontist for a free consultation.  They will be able to assess your individual needs and recommend the best course of treatment. In some cases, you may need to see both a dentist and an orthodontist for optimal results.

If you are considering orthodontic treatment, it is important to see a Calgary orthodontist. They will be able to give you the best possible care and achieve the best results so you have a beautiful, straight smile that you’ll be proud to show off!

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a specialized branch of dentistry that focuses on the alignment of teeth and jaws. Orthodontists undergo advanced specialized training in this area, and as such, they are experts in correcting dental problems related to misalignment. This means that they are much better equipped to diagnose and treat problems like Crowding, Spacing, Overbites, and Underbites.

There is a common misconception that all dentists are orthodontists. However, this is not the case. While all orthodontists are certified as dentists, not all dentists are trained to be orthodontists.

In what ways are they similar?

Dentists and orthodontists are both highly trained and skilled professionals that often work together to ensure that patients receive the best possible care. Both dentist and orthodontists complete rigorous dental programs and years of schooling in order to be licensed to treat patients. 

Both dentists and orthodontists play an important role in maintaining patients’ oral health. Dentists primarily focus on preventative measures and general maintenance when it comes to teeth. This includes things like regular cleanings, checkups, and fillings. Orthodontists, on the other hand, specialize in correcting alignment issues with teeth. This might involve braces, Invisalign or other similar treatments. 

Both dentist and orthodontists typically work in an office setting and do not require a surgical room. 

If you are concerned about your oral health, it is important to consult with either a dentist or an orthodontist. 

How are they different?

While dentists and orthodontists share many similarities, there are also some key differences between the two professions. 

One of the key differences between a dentist and an orthodontist is the level of training and education required. In order to earn their specialization, orthodontists much complete 2-3 years of additional training beyond dental school. So while a dentist completes 4 years of schooling, an orthodontist typically completes 6-7 years of schooling. This extra training means that orthodontists are experts in correcting teeth and jaw irregularities and misalignment. As such, they are often able to achieve a better orthodontic result than a dentist.

The second major difference is the focus of each professional. Dentists typically focus on preventative care and general oral health, while orthodontists specialize in correcting teeth and jaw irregularities such as misaligned teeth. 

Dentists are typically is concerned with issues such as:

  • Tooth disease, decay, cavities and fillings
  • Root canals
  • Cleanings and treating periodontal disease
  • Placing veneers, crowns, bridges and implants
  • Extracting teeth

When you go to visit a dentist, they will usually clean your mouth and check for cavities and gum disease. They may take x-rays of your smile and jaw bone to screen for any signs of trouble. During your cleaning, they will remove any plaque and tarter that may have built up in between visits. They can teach you how to prevent diseases through proper dental hygiene. If you are concerned about any issues regarding cavities, poor gum health, and techniques to keep your mouth clean, a dentist is the right practitioner to visit. In the case of multiple cavities or extensive decay, your dentist can perform a root canal or place a crown. They are licensed to perform such kinds of procedures.

Orthodontists are typically concerned with issues such as:

  • Misaligned, crooked teeth
  • Spaced teeth
  • A crooked smile
  • An overbite or underbite
  • An open bite or a deep bite
  • An inability to chew food due to teeth misalignment
  • Jaw misalignment
  • Breathing and airway problems
  • Jaw pain

Orthodontists require extra training to become certified to perform their specialized work, while a dentist only needs to attend dental school and do not receive much training in orthodontics so they will often refer patients to an orthodontist for specialized care. For example, your dentist may recommend that if you have a child nearing the age of 7, you should take them to the orthodontist for an examination. And even if your dentist may not suspect anything is wrong, it may take an orthodontist’s skilled eye to diagnose orthodontic problems.

Some of the frequent orthodontic treatment modalities they use include:

  • Metal braces
  • Clear braces
  • Invisalign
  • Lingual or hidden braces
  • Phase 1 treatment such as expanders, headgear, facemask, etc.
  • Jaw surgery

During your initial evaluation, an orthodontist may recommend one of those treatments depending on your bite. They may take 3D scans and x-rays so that they can customize a treatment plan to correct your smile. In addition, they can address problems such as temporomandibular disorders and jaw development disorders. During the time that you see your orthodontist, you can continue seeing your dentist. It is important to visit a dentist because cleaning your teeth may be more difficult due to the extra metal and wires.

They will ensure that your gums and teeth remain healthy during your orthodontic work.

Regardless of whether you need straightening, you should visit the dentist at least three times a year for checkups because dental hygiene requires constant monitoring. Dentists are the ones who will ensure that your gums and teeth are healthy and disease free.

More information on the The orthodontics process.