One aspect of your health that often gets neglected is your teeth. However, it’s just as important to see a dentist for regular checkups and preventative care as it is to see your primary care doctor. An orthodontist is another professional that takes care of a variety of issues with your teeth. Many people don’t know the differences between the two, but it’s important to be able to distinguish a dentist from an orthodontist.

What Does a Dentist Do?

Dentists tend to a person’s dental care by performing a variety of tasks. They diagnose and treat your dental care as a whole and take X-rays of the mouth and perform checkups and dental cleanings. Dentists do other tasks like repair problems with the teeth, such as fill cavities, take models of the mouth if the individual needs dentures and do more extensive work like root canals and crowns.

The dentist also treats patients for gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis and performs additional procedures like root planing and scaling to eliminate excess bacteria from underneath the gums. They can prescribe an antibacterial mouthwash for people with periodontal disease and administer Arestin, a special type of antibiotic that can be injected directly into the gums between the molars in patients with advanced periodontitis.

What Does an Orthodontist Do?

Orthodontists concentrate on correcting alignment issues with the teeth and jaws. They generally rely on non-surgical procedures and diagnose, treat and prevent bad bites, also known as malocclusions. In general, if you have issues such as an overbite, underbite, gaps or crowding of the teeth, your dentist will refer you to an orthodontist. Orthodontic treatments include being fitted for braces, retainers or Invisalign. They also frequently treat patients with temporal mandibular joint disorder or TMJ.

An orthodontist can have you fitted for standard metallic braces, ceramic braces, lingual braces and Invisalign, a clear, plastic set of aligners that can be removed for eating and oral care. When a patient needs any of these corrective options, they are required to periodically come back for additional fittings while their teeth shift into correct position.

What's The Difference Between A Dentist And An Orthodontist?

What Similarities do Dentists and Orthodontists Share?

Both dentists and orthodontists provide oral care. An orthodontist can also work at a dental office and provide the same kind of care that dentists do, which makes the two professions similar.

How are Dentists and Orthodontists Different?

Overall, there are more differences between the two professions than similarities. An orthodontist must have additional training because their craft is a dental specialty.

Some dentists simply practice general dentistry, while others can also perform surgery by getting their DDS (doctor of dental surgery) degree. General dentists require three or more years of undergraduate study and an additional four years of dental school. Dental specialists like orthodontists require that education plus postgraduate studies to earn a Masters or Doctorate degree.

In some cases, a general dentist can provide orthodontic treatment to their patients. At the same time, dentists are unlikely to have the same level of training and expertise as an orthodontist because orthodontics is a specialized field within dentistry.

Christopher is a local author and community blogger encouraging others to commit to practicing great dental hygiene habits while working with South Tulsa Dental.