Seeing a dentist twice a year is ideal to maintain healthy teeth and gums, but what about seeing an orthodontist? Do you know the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

While there are some overlaps, there are also some stark differences between the two, and it’s important to understand if you’re going to have any dental work done. 

If you’ve been wondering about an orthodontist vs. dentist, keep reading to learn more!

Dentist Responibilities

A dentist is responsible for the general care and concern of oral health. Dentists obtain a four-year degree and then go on to dental school for another four years. They serve internships where they practice dental medicine to prepare themselves, and upon graduation, they earn a doctor of medical dentistry or DMD.

The responsibilities of a general dentist vary, but generally speaking, they examine patients, searching for decay in the teeth, clean teeth, and perform a variety of treatments to keep teeth healthy. They provide oral education for patients, meaning they show them and tell them how to care for their teeth to prevent further dental problems. Dentists also diagnose and treat dental problems like gingivitis and periodontal disease

When you chip or crack a tooth, you may want to improve its appearance or you need it removed to stop the pain. General dentists often take care of this as well by offering bonding, veneers, or crowns. Some dentists have extensive training in cosmetic or restorative dentistry and offer these services. 

What Is an Orthodontist?

An orthodontist is also a dentist, but with different responsibilities and training. Where a general dentist works to ensure the overall health of your teeth, an orthodontist specializes in jaw alignment and health. 

Orthodontists have the same training, skill, and education as general dentists, but additionally, they have extensive training in orthodontics. This means that once they’ve finished their orthodontic residency and passed exams, they’re qualified to perform a variety of orthodontic procedures. 

  • Orthodontists offer services such as:
  • Jaw alignment in children and adults
  • Braces or retainers to straighten teeth
  • May perform oral surgery if needed
  • Prosthetics

If you’re in a pinch to see a dentist, an orthodontist will do if no other dentist is available. But seeing an orthodontist is a specialty if you have problems with your jaw or desire straighter teeth. 

Should You See A Dentist?

Sometimes it can be challenging to decide when you need to see an orthodontist or a dentist. But here are some ways you can determine what you need. 

Seeing a dentist for general cleaning, examinations, and oral education is preferred. Additionally, they can fill cavities and give recommendations.

If you’re interested in cosmetic or restorative dentistry, you’ll want to see a dentist who has experience in that field. Cosmetic and restorative dentistry overlap in several areas, but they typically include:

  • Teeth whitening
  • Crowns
  • Veneers
  • Bonding
  • Dental Implants
  • Dentures

Dentists are also skilled at diagnosing dental diseases like gum disease and providing treatment for it as well. They can also prescribe medications, and in some cases perform oral surgery if qualified. 

If you have a dental emergency, most general dental offices offer emergency dental hours. A dental emergency may include problems like a broken tooth, unexplainable pain, knocked-out or cracked teeth, and others. 

Should You See An Orthodontist?

Seeing a dentist is essential to keeping your teeth healthy. However, when seeing an orthodontist, maybe by a recommendation from your dentist. 

You should see an orthodontist when you want cosmetic work done to your teeth as well, but it needs to involve the jaw. Even though orthodontists work to straighten teeth, there are also medical reasons to see one. These might include:

  • Chewing issues related to the jaw
  • Sleeping problems
  • Headaches related to crooked teeth
  • Damage to the jaw
  • Speech problems
  • Headaches

Other dental issues might need an orthodontist’s assistance, but only your dentist can make those recommendations. You might need help with:

  • Overbites
  • Crossbites
  • Underbites
  • Spacing or crowding

While all of these issues may or may not cause severe problems, all of these deal with misaligned teeth, which could cause other problems in the long run, especially for children. 

Orthodontists treat both adults and children. Ideally speaking, children should see an orthodontist help fix jaw issues when they’re in their teens or even a little younger. However, adults can also benefit from orthodontic work, but it may be a little more in-depth because the jaw is already formed. 

For children, their jaw is more easily manipulated because it’s still growing. As the jaw grows, the orthodontist can plan a treatment that fixes jaw problems and ensure that the jaw grows well and the teeth are aligned. Doing this while the child is still growing stops problems from becoming larger in the future. 

Finding an Orthodontist or A Dentist

When you’re searching for an orthodontist near me, you want to ensure that they’re board-certified and they have photos to back up their work. Orthodontic work requires frequent appointments for several weeks, so you’ll want to make sure that it’s a close location

When you’re searching for a dentist near me, you’ll want to make sure they offer the services you’re looking for. Do you need cleaning, restorative dentistry, or check-ups? Also, since you’ll be visiting the dentist twice a year and possibly for emergencies, you’ll want them to be nearby as well. 

Orthodontist Vs. Dentist

When you’re thinking about an orthodontist vs. dentist, there’s much overlap, but their responsibilities are different. For basic cleaning and cosmetic repairs, you’ll want a dentist, and for jaw and tooth alignment, you’ll need an orthodontist. 

Are you looking for the best orthodontist in your area? Our orthodontists are ready to assist! Contact us today for your complimentary consultation and be on your way to a healthier smile.