What is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

Orthodontists and general dentists are both dental professionals who work to maintain and improve the oral health of their patients, but they have different areas of focus and expertise.

Orthodontists are dental specialists who focus on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. This includes correcting misaligned teeth, malocclusions (improper bites), and other issues with the teeth, jaws, and bite. Orthodontists use a variety of techniques to straighten teeth, including braces, Invisalign, and other appliances. They often work closely with patients over a period of several months or years to achieve the desired results.

General dentists, on the other hand, provide a wide range of general dental care services to patients of all ages. This includes preventive care, such as cleanings and fluoride treatments, as well as restorative procedures like fillings, crowns, and bridges. They may also perform cosmetic procedures, such as teeth whitening or veneers, to improve the appearance of their patients' smiles.

One key difference between orthodontists and general dentists is the amount of training and education they receive. Orthodontists must complete a two- to three-year residency program in orthodontics after earning their orthodontic specialty certificate. This additional training allows them to gain expertise in the field of orthodontics and to specialize in the treatment of dental and facial abnormalities. General dentists, on the other hand, do not receive this specialized training and are more focused on providing a broad range of general dental care services.

Another difference between the two is the type of treatment they offer. Orthodontists primarily focus on straightening teeth and correcting misalignment, while general dentists offer a wider range of services including preventive care, restorative care, and cosmetic procedures.

Orthodontists are dental specialists trained to correct overbites, underbites, crossbites, deep bites, and open bites. Not only are they experts at using clear aligners when appropriate, but they also understand how and when to use expanders, functional appliances, braces, extractions, and surgery when necessary. You only have one set of teeth and you want a specialist handling your treatment.

It's important to note that both orthodontists and general dentists play important roles in maintaining the oral health of their patients. If you have concerns about the alignment of your teeth or bite, it's a good idea to visit an orthodontist for a consultation. If you have general dental health concerns or are in need of preventive care, a general dentist can help.

NOTE: The author, Dr. Graydon Carr, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Chico, California with his partner Dr. B. Scott Hood. Dr. Graydon Carr was trained at the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, California, and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas School of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. Dr. Graydon Carr & Dr. B. Scott Hood’s are experts in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems. This blog is for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. B. Scott Hood & Dr. Graydon Carr are licensed to diagnose and treat patients in the state of California. They cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can they select treatment plans for readers. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.