Dentists and orthodontists are doctors who specialize in oral healthcare. Doctors who study general dentistry are trained to diagnose and treat conditions of your gums, teeth, tongue, and mouth.Orthodontists also receive this training, but they get additional education in order to specialize in diagnosing and treating misalignments of your teeth and jaws.

This article will explain more about how orthodontists and dentists differ so that you can decide which type of doctor you need to see. It also gives you an answer to this question: “how to find the best orthodontist and dentist near me?”.

A Dentist Short Definition

General dentist

Here is the complete general dentist definition. Dentists are doctors of oral health. Typically, dentists go to college for a pre-dentistry or pre-medical degree before going on to a graduate school of dentistry.

Like all doctors, dentists are required to be extensively trained in their practice before becoming certified. About 80 percent of dentists practice what’s known as general dentistry.

Certified dentists can diagnose and treat oral health conditions of your teeth, gums, tongue, and mouth. They’re also able to clean your teeth, but dental hygienists usually take care of that.

Now that you what dentist definition is, let’s learn about the care dentists provide:

  • conduct and interpret dental X-rays
  • fill cavities
  • extract teeth
  • repair cracked teeth
  • promote oral health and oral hygiene
  • fill and bond teeth
  • treat gum disease, such as gingivitis
  • prescribe treatment, including prescription drugs, for oral health conditions
  • whiten teeth
  • install crowns or veneers
  • oversee the development of children’s teeth
  • perform oral surgery

An Orthodontist Short Definition


Orthodontists are also doctors of oral health. Technically, they are a kind of dentist with a specialty in tooth and jaw alignment.

Certified orthodontists are trained to diagnose and treat oral health conditions of your teeth, gums, and mouth. But mostly, orthodontists focus on making sure your teeth and jaw are set correctly. So you may be referred to an orthodontist if you have an overbite, underbite, gaps or overcrowded teeth. Your orthodontist will determine which treatment will straighten your teeth and retrain your mouth muscles best.

Now that you know the orthodontist definition, let’s see what orthodontists do:

  • supervise facial growth (jawline and bite) in children
  • diagnose and treat misaligned teeth and jaws (malocclusion)
  • create a treatment plan that includes braces and retainers
  • perform teeth straightening surgery
  • install dental appliances, such as braces, palatal expanders, orthodontic headgear, or Herbst appliances

Are Orthodontists dentists?

Orthodontists vs dentists

All orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists. Orthodontists and dentists undertake the same training initially, but orthodontists complete further training after they graduate dental school. To become a dentist, a person must complete four years of undergraduate education and four years of dental school, according to the American Dental Association. After completing their studies, dentists must pass a rigorous written exam and a clinical licensing exam before they are qualified to practice. Qualified dentists include the letters DDS or DMD after their names.

One can choose to practice as a general dentist or to pursue a specialty such as orthodontics, which requires additional training. Approximately 6 percent of dentists are orthodontists. Orthodontic courses go beyond basic dental training and have a more specific focus. The additional education includes a two- or three-year residency and more than 4,800 hours of orthodontic training.

General Dentistry vs Orthodontics

General dentist

An orthodontist requires additional schooling as a dental specialty; the situation is similar to a doctor who obtains additional schooling to become a surgeon. Another difference is that orthodontists specialize in helping patients with the alignment of their teeth, improving their bite, or fitting them for corrective braces and devices. If a patient has an overbite, a dentist will refer him or her to an orthodontist.

Dentists typically encourage good oral hygiene and provide services related to:

  • Tooth decay
  • Root canals
  • Gum disease
  • Crowns
  • Bridges
  • Veneers
  • Teeth whitening

Orthodontists are dentists that specialize in the alignment of teeth, and provide services related to:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Crowded teeth
  • Overbite
  • Underbite

Can Orthodontists Do General Dentistry?

orthodontist doing braces

To be a qualified and practising orthodontist, one must complete a General Dental Degree and an additional three years of full-time university training in orthodontics. This training also includes the study of facial growth, development, biology and biomechanics. These qualifications allow orthodontists to diagnose and treat crooked teeth, bad bites, and poorly aligned jaws.

It must be noted that your primary dental care most often is provided by a general dentist. He or she manages the overall health of your teeth and gums, checking for problems and performing basic services such as cleanings, fillings, root canals, bridges and crowns. If you have dental problems beyond the scope of your dentist’s practice, you will be referred to a specialist.

In the case of such issues as malocclusion, poor dental alignment, inability to close the lips, protruding teeth, facial imbalance or difficulty chewing or biting, for instance, your dentist will suggest you see an orthodontist.

So, orthodontists have the same education as those practicing general dentistry, but they have spent extra time specializing in their field. Most orthodontists choose to focus on their orthodontics practice instead of general dentistry.

So this is all you need to know about orthodontics vs general dentistry and orthodontics interesting facts. To conclude, dentists and orthodontists are two types of doctors who receive extensive practice diagnosing and treating oral health conditions. There are some things that orthodontists are certified to do that dentists are not.

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