Orthodontist vs. Dentist: What’s the Difference?

June 26, 2018

Orthodontist vs. Dentist: What's the difference?
All orthodontists are dentists but not all dentists are orthodontists. In fact, according to the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), only 6% of dentists are orthodontists. How can this be? Both dentists and orthodontists go to school to become dentists, but orthodontists have to go through a few extra years of schooling to provide proper treatment to straighten teeth and align bites. However, most orthodontists don’t actually provide the care dentists do so they can focus on doing what they do best: creating better smiles. Here is a brief overview of what an orthodontist does and how it is different from what a dentist does.

What Do Orthodontists Do?

Orthodontists focus on aligning your jaw and teeth to make sure that your teeth stay healthy and look great. Some of the things orthodontists do include:

  • Influencing jaw growth
  • Straightening teeth
  • Aligning your bite

A common misconception is that the effects of orthodontic treatment are purely cosmetic, but that’s not true! There are other benefits besides a great smile by choosing to go to an orthodontist. Some of the advantages of treatment include:

  • Fewer cavities. When teeth are straighter there are fewer places for plaque and food to get stuck between your teeth.
  • Healthier teeth. An aligned bite means that the pressure you exert on your teeth is even, so you don’t unevenly break down your teeth.
  • Prevention of future problems. Coming in for orthodontic treatment early can fix potential future problems. For example, orthodontists can create more space for permanent teeth to grow, preventing crowded teeth later. How early should kids come in for orthodontic treatment? The AAO suggests first coming to an orthodontist by age 7.
  • Higher self-esteem. Having a smile that looks great can give a confidence boost to those who are self-conscious about their smile.

What Do Dentists Do?

Dentists take care of your general mouth health. They usually do general cleanings, fill cavities, whiten teeth, and teach you how to take care of your teeth. It’s important to go to the dentist often to keep your teeth and gums healthy and clean.

Do I Really Need an Orthodontist to Straighten My Teeth?

Orthodontists are the best option to straighten your teeth and fix any alignment issues. While some dentists offer some forms of orthodontic treatment they don’t have the same training and experience orthodontists do. If you want to provide the best care for you or your family’s smiles, the best option is to choose an orthodontist to straighten your teeth.

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t ask an English teacher a math question, right? They may be a teacher, but that doesn’t mean they know how to teach you math. That’s the main difference between an orthodontist and a dentist. Both dentists and orthodontists go to school to care for your teeth, but orthodontists take a few extra years of classes to provide the specialized treatment you can expect from a specialist.

Why Choose an Orthodontist for Orthodontic Treatment?

Choosing an orthodontist over a dentist for orthodontic treatment can actually save you time and money. Because orthodontists only practice orthodontics and not general dentistry they have the newest and best equipment needed to provide effective treatment.

Another big advantage of choosing an orthodontist to straighten your teeth is the number of treatment options available. At Smile Ranch, you can choose from:

Having more choices means you can pick the right treatment for you! If you don’t mind traditional braces, go for it! If you’d rather have a more discreet option, there are also clear braces or Invisalign. Some dentists only offer one or two orthodontic treatment options, so it’s important to go to someone who offers the treatment option you’re looking for.

How to Choose the Right Orthodontist

If you’re looking for straighter teeth it’s important to choose an orthodontist that does the job right. Getting orthodontic treatment is a big investment! When looking for an orthodontist choose one who is:

  • A member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO).
  • A registered Invisalign provider. If you’re looking to get Invisalign, orthodontists are required to register with Invisalign to provide treatment. They also offer a ranking system so you can find an orthodontist who is experienced in providing great Invisalign treatment.
  • Offers a free consultation. Most orthodontists, like Smile Ranch, offer a free consultation, so you can get an idea of your treatment options before you’ve made the commitment.
  • Affordable. While it depends on the insurance plan orthodontic treatment may be covered by your insurance. It may also be paid for with an HSA or FSA depending on the orthodontist.

Want to Learn More?

Trying to decide which orthodontist is right for you? You can learn more about us with our inside look at Smile Ranch or you can give us a call for a free consultation!

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Smile Ranch Smiles

Meet Our Team

We have been practicing for over 25 years.