The Key Differences Between an Orthodontist and Dentist That You Should Know


Dentists and orthodontists are both experts in the field of dental care but only in different areas. It’s common for the two professions to be often confused and interchanged with one another, which is understandable because not many people know how both dentistry and orthodontics are different. But overall, they both help keep a patient’s teeth healthy in more ways than one.

Orthodontists specialize in the field of dentistry that concentrates on correcting the straightness of teeth, the physiology of the jawbones, and occlusion. On the other hand, dentistry is an expansive medical specialty that focuses on the jaw, teeth, nerves, and gums. However, these are just general definitions for two very unique dental fields, so we’re going to go ahead and take a closer look to see how they are similar, how they are different, and how each of them can help their patients.

Orthodontics and Dentistry Similarities

The main similarity that these fields have is that they’re both specialized for oral care. However, it’s important to remember that orthodontists are dentists (which means they can give patients the same care that dentists provide) but not all dentists are orthodontists. This makes each specialist very similar to the other, in a sense that both professions can actually overlap if need be.

Both are considered to be dental doctors by everyone and every practitioner in the field. Getting into the semantics side, orthodontists have a bit of an edge over dentists, thanks to the additional schooling and training they’ve completed, which is needed for their certification. This lets orthodontists work in the clinics of dentists, if and when the situation calls for it.

Orthodontics and Dentistry Differences

You may notice that this part is going to be longer than the previous one because there are a lot more differences between orthodontics and dentistry than similarities. Let’s start off with the most basic difference. Orthodontists need additional schooling since it is considered as a dental specialty, similar to how doctors go through further schooling to be certified as surgeons. Dentists, on the other hand, specialize in the examination, prevention, and treatment of issues and diseases related to oral cavities.

To provide a better breakdown, we’ll go ahead and separate dentists from orthodontists based on what they do. We’ll focus on the things they’re capable of handling and the services they offer.

Orthodontists are dentists trained to handle issues regarding the alignment of teeth and can cater (but not limited) to the following related services:

  • Overbite. This is a condition where a person’s upper jaw overlaps with their lower jaw.
  • Crowded teeth. This is caused by discord between jaw size versus teeth size; a person might have a jaw that’s too small for their teeth or their teeth might be too large.
  • Underbite. A dental condition wherein the lower teeth extend forward, farther than its upper front teeth counterpart.
  • Misaligned teeth. Also known as malocclusions, misaligned teeth is a condition where a patient’s crooked teeth are visibly noticeable in their smile.

On the other side of the coin, dentists specialize in a nearly similar way, but they mainly concentrate on cavities and tooth decay, encourage people to practice good oral hygiene, and offer (but not limited to) services such as the following:

  • Gum disease. When a person’s gums become infected, swollen, or sore (sometimes bleed), a dentist is on the case.
  • Teeth whitening. Whitens teeth to remove discoloration and stains.
  • Root canals. Treatments that are performed to save and repair a tooth that has been badly damaged by decay or infection.
  • Bridges. False teeth used to bridge the gap between real teeth. False teeth can be created from porcelain, gold, alloys, or a mix of the three.
  • Tooth decay. Decay on the outer surface of a tooth due to bacterial formation.
  • Veneers. They are custom-made wafer-thin, tooth-colored materials mostly used for aesthetic purposes.
  • Crowns. Dental crowns are fixed prosthetic restorations put in place to repair a damaged tooth back to its initial size and shape.

How Orthodontists and Dentists Can Help Patients

Now that we’ve talked about both specialties’ similarities and differences, it’s easier to see what each can offer to us, potential patients. Orthodontists often deal with crooked teeth but can aid patients who have crossbites, underbites, and more. They can even help patients who suffer from temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and alleviate their pain.

Dentists are trained to do tooth extractions, root canals, and to address general teeth, and gum tissues, which is why having a modern dental chair in a dentist’s clinic is a must for ergonomics purposes and patient comfort. However, they are also capable of providing additional care in such cases as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues and fillings. To truly achieve that perfect smile you’re aiming for, it’s best to go to both experts.

This is just a basic look into the difference between orthodontists and dentists. If you want to know more and know better about different dental procedures, then you shouldn’t shy away from asking the many dental clinics and professionals in your area. The more you know, the better your smile will turn out to be!