Are Dentists And Orthodontists The Same?

You might be wondering if a general or family dentist can perform your orthodontic treatment. In short, yes—but it may not be in the best interest of your smile and bite.

The main difference between a dentist and an orthodontist is their education and experience. Every orthodontist completes dental school first, and then is accepted into a university  become a specialist. This requires three years of specialized residency training beyond the four years of dental school. In residency, orthodontists learn not only the mechanics of straightening teeth, but study the interaction between bones, teeth, and facial muscles. This includes how the jaw grows, how a particular bone reacts to pressure, how to properly move teeth into alignment without damage, and much more. Lastly, orthodontists also take aesthetics into account. Your smile says a lot about you and you want straight teeth that complement the shape of your lips and jaw.  

A dentist is an expert in assessing your overall oral health. They are also experts in treating cavities, missing teeth, gum and jaw problems, and oral cancers. A general dentist may be able to treat minor orthodontic cases such as a slightly overlapped tooth or a gap, but an orthodontist can identify if they are part of a larger oral issue and frankly do it in much less time.

Orthodontics is much more than straightening teeth. An orthodontist is an expert in creating a great smile, which is a balance between the teeth, lips, and gums. In addition to this, an orthodontist must also evaluate facial growth and potential changes when treating children and teens.

At Moravec Orthodontics, I have had to re-evaluate many patients who had first gone to a dentist for orthodontic treatment. These individuals might have chosen a dentist because they are more familiar with them, they think treatment will be cheaper, or they believe their orthodontic problems are  minor and does not require a specialist. Seeking expert advice from a qualified orthodontist is rarely a bad decision. Given the growth and changes of facial bones, a complete and thoughtful assessment is required. In my office we have digital tools that most dentist and even some other orthodontist don’t have. These digital tools allow me to see the interaction between the teeth, the roots, the bone and lips.

Many dentists now offer clear aligner systems, such as Invisalign, but they usually lack the experience an orthodontist can offer to give the best results. Dentists can become a certified Invisalign practitioner after completing a two- or three-day course. The average dentist who provides Invisalign treats fewer than ten cases per year, while most orthodontists have treated hundreds of clear aligner patients and thousands with traditional braces.  

Orthodontists take pride in adhering to best practices and ensuring they stay up-to-date with the most advanced technology so patients can reap the benefits of well-researched treatments and desirable results. Your smile is an investment in your future—ensure it is in the hands of an experienced state licensed specialist in orthodontics.  For more information on orthodontic treatment and care, check out my latest book, Going the Extra Smile: Merging Technology and Expertise for a Lifetime of Smiles.