Orthodontist Vs. Dentist: Understanding The Difference

Orthodontist Vs. Dentist: Understanding The Difference

If you have a tooth problem or you need a checkup, you will have to visit a dentistry specialist. Dentistry is a very broad medical field dealing with teeth, gum, jaw and nerves. On the other hand, the field of orthodontics is more specific, specializing only in teeth and jaws.

It can be confusing when you have a dental issue and do not know which specialist to visit. It is also difficult to know if your dental issue falls under dentistry or orthodontics. To avoid visiting the wrong specialist, you need to learn their differences and what they do.

Here are the differences between an orthodontist and a dentist.

What an Orthodontist Does
An orthodontist is an oral health specialist with the same qualifications as a dentist but has specialized in tooth and jaw alignment. This means that they can perform the duties of a dentist, but they usually specialize in conditions affecting your teeth and jaw. They can supervise facial growth in children, diagnose and treat misaligned teeth and jaws, fix braces and aligners and perform teeth straightening surgery.

What a Dentist Does
A dentist is a general practitioner of oral health, and their practice is commonly known as general dentistry. If you go to a dentist’s office, they will provide oral health care such as fill cavities, extracting teeth, repairing cracked teeth, whitening teeth, performing oral surgery and treating gum disease, among others. Dentists are the most common oral health practitioners since most go to them for their oral health care needs.

Qualifications and Training
An orthodontist and a dentist get the same education and training; however, an orthodontist is required to receive more education before they can start to practice. After graduating school of dentistry, a dentist can start practicing as long as they are certified. However, an orthodontist will have to study for several years, specializing in tooth and jaw alignment. After finishing their special studies, a certified orthodontist can focus on treating teeth and jaw alignment issues.

To become a dentist, you must complete two years of classroom and lab studies and two years working on patients under supervision. After graduating from the school of dentistry, a dentist shall take the National Dental Examination. A dentist has to pass this exam so that they can become a licensed professional.

To become an orthodontist, you must attend pre-dentistry before entering the school of dentistry. After graduating from the school of dentistry, you must attend an orthodontic residency program for two or three years to be certified in orthodontics. You need to complete additional tests according to the American Board of Orthodontics before you can begin your practice.

Whom Should You Visit?
If you have an oral health issue that requires medical attention, you can visit the orthodontist or the dentist, depending on the severity. Most common dental issues such as tooth decay, tooth extraction or teeth whitening are handled by a dentist. However, if the issue is more complicated, you must visit an orthodontist. Some dentists recommend seeing an orthodontist if you have tooth crowding, palate expansion or jaw malocclusion.
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