Dentists and Orthodontists: What's the Difference?

Most people have probably been to a dentist at one time or another in their lives. Hopefully, this has been on a regular basis. This might include professional cleanings, X-rays to maintain good dental health, and other routine items. Dentistry is a broad term that is mentioned in regards to the health of the teeth, gums, mouth, and jaw. Dentists do treat a variety of oral health problems, as well as diseases. This might include cavities, tooth decay, and gum diseases such as gingivitis. But have you been to an orthodontist? What is the difference?

Orthodontist vs. Dentist

Both a dentist and an orthodontist both must obtain a bachelor's degree in their first part of schooling. Then they may apply to dental school, and complete a four-year doctoral program. This will allow them to become a general dentist. At graduation, they may both practice dentistry, but orthodontics must apply and be accepted into an orthodontic residency.

Orthodontics specialty residency is difficult to get into. Only the most dedicated dentists are accepted. After this, they will go to a two to three-year program, which ends with focuses on the correction of dental malocclusions. This includes poor bites, crooked misaligned teeth, and facial growth along with the correction of skeletal discrepancies.

Orthodontists are Specialists

Both dentists and orthodontists must go through a long history of schooling before beginning their profession. The main difference is that an orthodontist is a specialist. Because an orthodontist is a specialist in their field, they must limit their practice to orthodontics. Most often you will go to see an orthodontist for serious gum issues, as well as braces. Most often orthodontists specialize in aligning teeth and jaws.


There is some overlap between a dentist and an orthodontist. This is because all orthodontists are dentists, but very few dentists have undergone the extra 2-3 years to become certified in orthodontic training. Dentists are a bit different and can help patients achieve a cleaner, healthier smile through cleanings, X-rays, and even surgery.

When to See a Dentist

  • If you are concerned about the general health of your teeth or gums
  • When you suspect you may have a cavity, tooth decay, or gum disease
  • You want to learn more about how to keep your mouth clean
  • You want to prevent disease or other dental issues
  • If you want someone to evaluate your oral health and provide you with the hygienic care you need

When to See an Orthodontist

  • You notice crooked, misaligned, or overcrowded teeth that you want to be changed
  • You have an overbite or underbite
  • Your teeth are affecting your ability to chew food or speak properly
  • There are numerous aches and pains in your mouth
  • If you want someone to evaluate the alignment of your teeth and determine the best course of action to correct your bite
Posted on April 9th, 2021
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