How is an Orthodontist Different From a Dentist?

orthodontist vs dentist

Bronx, NY – Orthodontists and dentists both serve important roles in helping people maintain their oral health. They each start out in the same place – dental school. But once they have graduated from an accredited dental school, their paths differ.

After dental school, a general dentist can go on to begin practicing dentistry. However, an orthodontist continues their education in a specialty orthodontics program that typically lasts two to three years. During this time, an orthodontist not only learns in a classroom, but also gets hands on training to learning the intricacies behind moving teeth and aligning jaws.

Dentists focus on helping patients maintain good oral hygiene, and provide services such as cleanings and treating gum disease, help with restorative dental work, and can provide cosmetic procedures, such as teeth whitening and veneers. Dentists are doctors of oral health, and can diagnose and treat oral conditions relating to the teeth, gums, tongue and mouth. Dentist are able to:

  • Fill cavities
  • Extract teeth
  • Repair broken or cracked teeth
  • Educate patients on proper oral hygiene and health
  • Treat gum disease
  • Prescribe medication for oral health conditions
  • Install crowns, bridges or veneers
  • Whiten teeth

Orthodontists are also doctors of oral health, but with a specialty focus. Orthodontists focus on misaligned bites, helping to guide the teeth to their proper locations and improving how the jaw works. An orthodontic expert is trained to diagnose and treat malocclusion and jaw abnormalities, working to improve your teeth and jaw alignment. They work to:

  • Oversee eruption paths of permanent teeth in children patients
  • Oversee jaw growth in adolescent patients
  • Diagnose and treat malocclusions
  • Craft a personalized treatment plan, to include the braces option that is best for the patient
  • Utilize other orthodontic and orthopedic appliances when needed, such as palatal expanders or headgear

Think of the difference between orthodontist and dentist the same as any other doctor. You see your general practitioner for check-ups and physicals, but if you need to have your heart checked out, you would visit a cardiologist. It’s the same for your jaw and tooth alignment. Your dentist can help you maintain your oral hygiene, but if you need assistance in correcting your smile or bite, you should see an orthodontist. While more dentists are offering some form of orthodontic treatment in their offices, it is important that you always seek out the care of a well-trained orthodontist. An orthodontist has the necessary training to ensure you receive the proper diagnosis and a treatment plan that is customized just for you. 

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