Dentist vs. Orthodontist: What’s the Difference?

Dentists and orthodontists both went to dental school and both care for your smile, but what makes them different? Once a student completes dental school and passes their licensing exam, they are considered a general dentist. Some remain a general dentist and focus on keeping your gums, teeth, and mouth healthy. Others may choose to focus in a single area of dentistry, such as orthodontics.

How are Dentists and Orthodontists Different?

Dentists and orthodontists differ in the type of care they provide. While the two different practices support one another, you’ll visit the two practices for different reasons. 

Dentists provide regular dental care to help you prevent dental issues, such as cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease. They also conduct dental x-rays, monitor the development of teeth, repair cracked teeth, fill cavities, and can provide cosmetic dentistry services. Regular oral health exams and x-rays are what help your dentist determine whether an orthodontic referral is necessary.

Orthodontists attend dental school for an extra couple of years to become specially trained in orthodontics. Through this extra schooling, orthodontists become highly skilled in diagnosing and treating bite and jaw misalignment, correcting overcrowding, and developing an orthodontic treatment plan that results in straight teeth. Orthodontists become expertly trained in creating a straighter smile that will help patients achieve optimal oral health for life.

How are Dentists and Orthodontists Similar?

Dentists and orthodontists have one big thing in common – they care about helping you achieve your best smile! Their main focus is the well-being of your oral health. They are also both skilled in evaluating the growth of your teeth and jaw and the development of your smile. Both dentists and orthodontists can become board certified by the American Board of General Dentistry or the American Association of Orthodontics. In addition, an orthodontist can work in a dentist office and provide the same services as a general dentist.

Differences in Qualifications and Training

Both dentists and orthodontists attend dental school, where they receive their Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree. An orthodontist attends dental school for an extra 2 to 3 years to become certified in orthodontics. This makes them an orthodontic specialist in addition to being a general dentist.

Like medical doctors, dentists and orthodontists spend the first two years of dental school in a lab, and then must complete a residency program to receive extensive, hands-on experience in the field. Both must also complete a comprehensive certification exam to become licensed professionals. 

If You Have More Questions, Call Dentistry for Children Today!

If you’re in need of a teeth cleaning or oral health exam, our talented dental team at Dentistry for Children is here for your needs. If it’s time for orthodontic care, we will refer you to our partner, Family Orthodontics, to receive specialized care for orthodontic treatment. We’re here to help you know the difference between general dentistry and orthodontics, and help you schedule with the appropriate dental professional. Contact one of our convenient, Atlanta-area offices today!

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