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The Difference Between An Orthodontist & Dentist

The Difference Between An Orthodontist & Dentist

Orthodontists and dentists share many similarities. Both strive to achieve beautiful healthy smiles, but the truth is, their jobs are very different. Our Langley team is here to explain.

What’s the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

Dentists cover a broad range of oral health issues including cavities, gum disease, broken and missing teeth. Orthodontists are dental professionals that did an additional three years in an accredited university focused only on tooth and jaw alignment.  Orthodontists only do orthodontics and that makes them most qualified to provide the most comprehensive and efficient treatment options when it comes to straightening your teeth.  Dentists working with orthodontists result in the best overall dental health.

In order for patients to make informed decisions regarding treatment, it’s important to be aware of a few key differences between orthodontists and dentists:

What Is A Dentist

Dentists are doctors of oral health. Typically, dentists go to college for a pre-dentistry or pre-medical degree before going on to a graduate school of dentistry. Like all doctors, dentists are required to be extensively trained in their practice before becoming certified. About 80 percent of dentists practice what’s known as general dentistry.

Certified dentists can diagnose and treat oral health conditions of your teeth, gums, tongue, and mouth. They’re also able to clean your teeth, but dental hygienists usually take care of that. Dentists provide the following care:

  • Conduct and interpret dental X-rays
  • Fill cavities
  • Fill and bond teeth
  • Repair cracked teeth
  • Promote oral health and oral hygiene
  • Extract teeth
  • Perform oral surgery
  • Prescribe treatment, including prescription drugs, for oral health conditions
  • Whiten teeth
  • Install crowns or veneers
  • Oversee the development of children’s teeth
  • Treat gum disease, such as gingivitis

What Is An Orthodontist

Orthodontists are also doctors of oral health. Technically, they’re a kind of dentist with a specialty in tooth and jaw alignment. Certified orthodontists are trained to diagnose and treat oral health conditions of your teeth, gums, and mouth. But mostly, orthodontists focus on making sure your teeth and jaw are set correctly.

Orthodontists do the following:

  • Perform teeth straightening surgery
  • Diagnose and treat misaligned teeth and jaws (malocclusion)
  • Create a treatment plan that includes braces and retainers
  • Supervise facial growth (jawline and bite) in children
  • Install dental appliances, such as braces, palatal expanders, orthodontic headgear, or Herbst appliances

Choosing a Dentist or Orthodontist

Both dentists and orthodontists play an important role in keeping your teeth healthy and looking good. Nevertheless, it’s crucial for patients to be aware that a general dentist offering orthodontic treatment doesn’t have all the additional training, certifications and experience in orthodontics that a certified orthodontist does. 

The same way you’d expect your doctor to refer you to a specialist with additional training in a certain area, you should expect the same from your dentist. 

If you still have questions regarding whether you should see an orthodontist, contact our Langley team today to discuss your options.

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