The Differences Between a Dentist & an Orthodontist

Two in three adults and more than  four in five children have visited a dentist in the past year—in other words, dentists and the experience of visiting a dentist is very familiar to the overwhelming majority of Americans. However, a much smaller population has ongoing exposure to orthodontists. Because of the specialty nature of these practices, not everyone needs to schedule a visit like they do a dentist or dental clinic.

So, then, the big question: what’s the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist, and what warrants a visit to one over the other? While depending on the practice and the patient’s specific needs, differences can vary. But, at their core, there are a few key factors that separate one dental care provider from the other.

#1. Training

Both dentists and orthodontists are trained oral care professionals—both are doctors and both provide patient care. However, their training varies. Orthodontists train as dentists and, as a result, can provide dental care depending on the scope of their practice. Their education, though, involves specialized training that a  dentist wouldn’t receive specifically, training in methods to align teeth, improve bites and, from there, to fit patients for braces and other corrective devices.

    #2. Focus

    Again, both dentists and orthodontists focus on dental care. Dentists, though, tend to focus on oral hygiene first and foremost, tackling issues like tooth decay, gum disease and common treatments like root canals, fillings and crowns. Orthodontists, though, focus on alignment—issues like misaligned or crowded teeth, overbites, underbites and other challenges like temporomandibular disorders (TMD). By using treatments like corrective braces and other devices designed to promote alignment, orthodontists can help their patients achieve straight, healthy smiles, while overcoming pain and discomfort that comes from misalignments.

    That said, these differences can vary from practice to practice—some orthodontists provide general dental care, and some dentists can oversee certain orthodontic treatments. However, for ongoing orthodontic treatment and support, it’s essential to tap an orthodontist. Get in touch with the S.O.S. Braces team and we’ll help you identify a care plan for you or your child’s unique needs.

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