Difference Between Orthodontist and Dentist


While a dentist and an orthodontist are both tasked with the improvement of a patient’s overall oral health, they have vastly different ways of going about the job. For starters, dentistry is a much more broadly defined profession, as a dentist is able to handle a variety of ailments and deals with the jaw, teeth, nerves and gum.

Conversely, an orthodontist takes care of more specialized oral health issues, such as the straightness of a person’s teeth and correction of overbites. Each profession focuses their patients’ oral care and an orthodontist can perform many of the same duties as a dentist. They can even be found working in a dentist’s office on numerous occasions.

Education and Training

But this is where the similarities between the two professions stop. Orthodontists require additional schooling after completing their dentistry degrees, as their work is considered to be a unique specialization. For example, a doctor and a surgeon can perform many of the same duties and procedure.

A surgeon, however, must obtain further secondary education in order to become proficient in their area of specialization. The same can be said of dentists and orthodontists. An orthodontist’s areas of specialty include providing proper tooth alignment to their patients, fixing any issues that have cropped up with their ability to bite down, or fitting them for any sort of devices that are meant to correct their oral health, including braces and headgear.

Skills and Expertise

Dentists tend to focus more on the practicing of great oral hygiene and usually a much less specialized form of service to their patients. They spend more time with their patients handling such worries as decay of teeth, root canals and gum disease. A dentist also takes care of any issues with veneers, crowns and bridges.

When a dentist finishes their course of study at an accredited institution, they are able to jump in with both feet and start immediate work in their chosen field. The process is much more intensive for an orthodontist.

An orthodontist can be a dentist, as they have each received the same level of schooling and are on equal footing. A dentist can never perform the same duties as an orthodontist. In order to become an orthodontist, the person must enroll in an additional two year program after the completion of their initial dentistry schooling.

The full time university program that dentists must complete is not enough to become an orthodontist. A prospective orthodontist also needs to complete an accredited orthodontic residency program before they are able to perform orthodontic work on patients.

Orthodontists typically finish at the top of their dental school class and compete with other highly ranked students for positions at well regarded orthodontic residency programs. Tooth movement and dentofacial (facial development guidance) orthopedics are emphasized, as opposed to a dentistry program, which focuses more on general oral health.

Maintaining Oral Health

When it comes to the straightening of a person’s teeth, the alignment of their jaw or the correction of their overbite, an orthodontist is the foremost authority in each of these instances. Their education specifically focuses on these issues, giving an orthodontist several unique areas of expertise.

Dentists tend to spend more time on general issues that involve oral health, while an orthodontist spends all of their time on the same practices. This means that a dentist’s duties will vary greatly on a day to day basis. However, an orthodontist limits their attention to a certain area of knowledge. A dentist can eventually become certified to install braces or an Invisalign by taking a course, but their overall knowledge will still pale in comparison to an orthodontist’s.

Even though a dentist can attempt to learn the same practices and techniques as an orthodontist, there is a distinct difference in the quality of work a patient receives. A dentist can receive certifications to perform certain orthodontic duties with a short course, but patients should be forewarned that the certification a dentist receives over the course of a long weekend pales in comparison to what an orthodontist learns in two years.

If a patient is experiencing tooth pain or any other sort of oral discomfort, they should seek the help of a licensed dentist. Dentists are trained to handle many different types of general oral care and they are well versed in a variety of common ailments.

A person who is seeking help with the specific alignment of their teeth and wishes to correct any issues that they are having with tooth movement and/or overbites should make their way to an orthodontist’s office instead. Only an orthodontist can properly correct alignment issues, not just for the teeth, but also the jaw and lips, as well.

An orthodontist takes the time that is necessary to learn more about the entire body and how it affects oral health, whereas a dentist simply learns as much as they can about the inner workings of the mouth. Specialized dental issues should always be handled by an orthodontist. Fortunately, many dentists’ offices employ orthodontists in addition to their dental staff, so that you can receive all necessary treatment under the same roof.

The orthodontist can take care of the same issues as a dentist does, but a dentist cannot handle the same duties as an orthodontist. An orthodontist undergoes a longer period of schooling, trains their focus on a more specialized form of oral treatment and is often the only thing standing between a patient and a permanently crooked grin.