What is the Difference Between an Orthodontist and a Dentist?
Oct 21, 2015
A beautiful smile can work wonders for your confidence and self-esteem. And if you’re considering orthodontic treatment to fix crooked teeth or a misaligned bite, you may be wondering whether you should see a dentist or an orthodontist. While both professions deal with oral health, there are key differences between these two specialists that you need to understand.
In this blog post, we’ll break down what sets orthodontists and dentists apart, so you can make an informed decision about which professional to see for your specific needs.
From the education and training they undergo to the types of treatments they offer, we’ll cover everything you need to know about straightening things out with an orthodontist or a dentist. So, let’s dive in and get started on understanding the differences between these two essential oral health professionals.
What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a specialised field of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention, and correction of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists are dental specialists who have undergone additional training beyond dental school to become experts in aligning teeth and jaws. They use a variety of techniques and appliances, such as braces, aligners, and retainers, to straighten teeth, correct bite issues, and improve overall oral health.
Orthodontic treatment can address a range of issues, including crowded or crooked teeth, gaps between teeth, overbites, underbites, crossbites, and open bites. Orthodontics can also help to improve speech, chewing, and jaw function, as well as enhance facial aesthetics.
Orthodontic treatment typically begins with a consultation, during which the orthodontist will evaluate your teeth and jaws, take X-rays and photographs, and discuss your treatment options. Depending on your individual needs, the orthodontist may recommend braces, clear aligners, or other appliances to help straighten your teeth and improve your bite.
What is dentistry?
Dentistry is a broader field that encompasses the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of dental and oral health problems. Dentists are primary oral healthcare providers who examine teeth, gums, and other oral tissues to identify and treat conditions such as cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer.
Dentists also provide preventive services, such as cleanings, fluoride treatments, and sealants, to help maintain optimal oral health. They may also offer restorative treatments, such as fillings, crowns, and bridges, to repair damaged or missing teeth.
In addition to general dentists, there are also several specialized areas of dentistry, such as periodontics (treatment of gum disease), endodontics (root canal therapy), and oral surgery (extraction of teeth and other oral surgery procedures).
Education and Training
Both orthodontists and dentists require extensive education and training to become licensed practitioners.
Dentists must complete a four-year undergraduate degree in a related field, such as biology or chemistry, followed by four years of dental school. During dental school, students learn the fundamentals of oral health, including anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and dental materials. They also receive hands-on training in clinical settings, where they work with patients under the supervision of licensed dentists.
After completing dental school, dentists must pass a licensing exam to become a licensed practitioner. Some dentists may choose to pursue additional training in a specialised area of dentistry, such as orthodontics.
Orthodontists, on the other hand, must complete the same four-year undergraduate degree and four years of dental school as dentists. However, they must also complete an additional two to three years of specialised training in an orthodontic residency program.
During their residency, orthodontic students learn advanced techniques and theories related to tooth movement, jaw growth, and facial development. They also receive additional clinical training in orthodontic diagnosis and treatment planning, as well as hands-on experience working with patients.
Like dentists, orthodontists must also pass a licensing exam to become licensed practitioners.
Services offered by Orthodontists and Dentists
While both orthodontists and dentists focus on oral health, they offer different services and treatments.
Dentists provide a wide range of preventive, restorative, and cosmetic dental services. Some of the most common services provided by dentists include:
- Cleanings and checkups
- Fillings and crowns
- Root canal therapy
- Gum disease treatment
- Oral cancer screening
- Teeth whitening
Orthodontists, on the other hand, specialize in correcting misaligned teeth and jaws. Some of the most common services provided by orthodontists include:
- Clear aligners
- Palatal expanders
- Jaw surgery
Differences in Patient Care and Treatment Options
One of the main differences between orthodontists and dentists is the level of specialisation and expertise they bring to patient care.
Dentists provide comprehensive oral health care to patients of all ages, focusing on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of dental and oral health problems. They may also address cosmetic concerns related to the appearance of teeth and gums.
Orthodontists, on the other hand, specialize in the diagnosis, prevention, and correction of dental and facial irregularities. They use a variety of techniques and appliances to help straighten teeth and improve overall oral health. Orthodontists also have expertise in the growth and development of the jaws and face, which allows them to provide more specialized treatment options.
When it comes to orthodontic treatment, patients have more options than ever before. Traditional metal braces are still a popular choice, but many patients also opt for clear aligners, such as Invisalign, which are invisible and can be easily removed for eating and brushing.
The cost of dental and orthodontic treatment can vary significantly depending on the type of treatment and the individual needs of the patient.
Dental included in private health insurance typically covers preventive services, such as cleanings and checkups, and may provide partial coverage for restorative treatments, such as fillings and crowns. However, cosmetic treatments, such as teeth whitening and veneers, are usually not covered by insurance.
Orthodontic treatment, such as braces or clear aligners, are more expensive than general dental care, with costs ranging from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. Some private health insurance plans may provide partial coverage for orthodontic treatment, but many do not.
It’s important to consult with your insurance provider and orthodontist or dentist to get an accurate estimate of the cost of treatment and any insurance coverage that may be available.
How to choose between an Orthodontist and a Dentist
Choosing between an orthodontist and a dentist depends on your individual needs and oral health goals.
If you’re primarily concerned with maintaining good oral health and preventing dental problems, a general dentist may be the best choice for you. Dentists provide a wide range of preventive services, such as cleanings and checkups, and can also address many restorative and cosmetic concerns.
If you have issues with tooth or jaw alignment, a misaligned bite, or other orthodontic concerns, an orthodontist may be the best choice for you. Orthodontists have specialised training and expertise in correcting these types of issues and can provide a range of treatment options to improve your smile and overall oral health.
When choosing an orthodontist or dentist, it’s important to do your research, read reviews, and consult with the practitioner to ensure they have the skills and expertise necessary to meet your needs.
When it comes to achieving a straighter, healthier smile, both orthodontists and dentists play important roles. While dentists provide comprehensive oral health care, orthodontists specialise in correcting misaligned teeth and jaws.
By understanding the key differences between these two essential oral health professionals, you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you.
It is recommended to see a dentist yearly to maintain your dental health and an orthodontist to correct your misaligned teeth and jaws. Patients usually find that after orthodontic treatment, they become more self-conscience and see a dentist regularly to maintain the health of their teeth.
The most important thing is to prioritise your oral health and seek the care you need to achieve a perfect, beautiful, and healthy smile.