What’s the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist? Both dentists and orthodontists are knowledgeable and equipped to handle oral health problems. However, general dentists focus on maintaining oral wellness, and orthodontists specialize in aligning the teeth and jaw.
Before people decide where they should set up their next appointment, they must determine what services are needed and which type of dentist can help fulfill those services. Here are three critical differences between dentists and orthodontists:
Dentists and orthodontists receive a similar baseline education, but orthodontists require an additional few years of schooling.
Every dentist has a dental degree, which typically includes:
- Four years of undergrad
- Four years of dental school
- Practical exams
After receiving their accredited dental degrees, dentists have DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery), or DMD (Doctor of Dental Surgery) tagged at the end of their name.
In addition to a dental degree, an orthodontist also has a specialized orthodontic degree. Before becoming board-certified, orthodontists also complete a supplementary two-to-three-year residency and over 4,000 hours of orthodontic training.
According to the American Dental Association, about 80% of dentists practice what’s known as “general dentistry.” General dentists focus on oral health by diagnosing and treating dental and gum disease. Additionally, dentists can enhance the appearance of teeth through cosmetic methods, such as whitening.
Orthodontists specialize in dental development, occlusion (alignment), and facial growth. Their job is to gently move the teeth and jaw into a more desired alignment to improve health and aesthetics.
Think of your dentist as a general practitioner you should see often and an orthodontist as a specialist you would visit during treatment for a few years. Not everyone needs to see an orthodontist, but visiting the general dentist at least twice per year helps prevent disease and keeps the mouth healthy.
General dentists treat a variety of dental issues and apply preventive, restorative, and cosmetic techniques to improve smiles and oral health:
- Preventive dentistry is a broad umbrella term for treatments designed to avert oral health conditions. Preventive dental visits typically consist of professional cleaning from a dental hygienist, patient education to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, and oral cancer screening. They may also manage periodontal (gum) disease through scaling and root planing and TMJ disorders by fabricating custom mouth guards.
- Restorative dentistry focuses on reinstating teeth to their former glory. Dentists treat cavities and damaged teeth with fillings and root canal therapy. In extreme cases, they extract and replace teeth with dental implants and prostheses, including crowns, bridges, and dentures.
- Cosmetic dental techniques center on improving the smile’s appearance, and services include teeth whitening, veneers, and dental contouring.
Orthodontists are dentists that specialize in the alignment of teeth and provide services related to:
- Misaligned teeth
- Crowded teeth
- Gapped teeth
Even though they are also dentists, orthodontists strictly provide orthodontic services, including supervising facial growth, creating treatment plans for braces and retainers, and installing orthodontic appliances.
When to See an Orthodontist vs. Dentist
If you’re still unsure if you should visit a dentist or an orthodontist, an excellent first step is to visit a general dentist. After examining your teeth, Dr. Matthew L. Bridges may refer you to an orthodontist for further orthodontic treatment, if necessary. Message us online or call us at 580-255-4880 today to schedule a dental appointment in Duncan, OK.