The difference between an orthodontist and a dentist is the degree of specialization. Dentistry is a broad medical discipline that deals with many aspects of oral health. A dentist will work on the teeth, jaws, gums and any associated nerves or muscles. An orthodontist is a specialist who concentrates on straightening teeth and correcting bites. All orthodontists are therefore dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists.
Both dentists and orthodontists start out following the same educational path. They both go to college and then go to dental school. There they follow a four-year program that will enable them to earn a doctoral degree. Upon graduating, the dentist will have earned a D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine). The two degrees are essentially the same thing, for they require the same curriculum; the various dental schools simply call the degrees by one name or the other.
It’s after graduating from dental school that dentists and orthodontists begin following different paths. A general dentist can begin practicing right away, but the aspiring orthodontist has to undergo more training. They have to serve a residency in orthodontics at a university-affiliated program approved by the American Dental Association. The residency typically lasts two or three years. Afterward, the orthodontist has to take an exam to become board-certified by the American Board of Orthodontics.
What Kind of Services Do Dentists and Orthodontists Offer?
A dentist takes care of a patient’s overall oral health. Dentists perform such routine care as check-ups, X-rays and cleaning. They fill cavities and extract teeth. They can also perform root canals. They will educate their patients about the best ways to take care of their teeth and gums.
Since an orthodontist is a specialist, the patient’s dentist will probably recommend them. An orthodontist straightens teeth and corrects bad bites, like overbites. If the patient needs braces, their dentist will send them to an orthodontist, who will then help the patient choose the braces that would work best to correct their teeth. The orthodontist will then arrange to have the braces custom-made and install them in the patient’s mouth. They will advise the patient about appropriate oral care while wearing the braces (e.g. the patient has to avoid certain foods).
A dentist will probably send a patient to an orthodontist if they have the following conditions:
• Crowded teeth
• Overbite or under bite
• Cross bite
When Would You Go to a Dentist or Orthodontist?
Most authorities recommend that children start visiting an orthodontist when they are seven years old. Doing so will enable the orthodontist to identify potential problems as the child’s adult teeth start coming in. The orthodontist can also help a child break bad habits, like thumb-sucking or tongue thrusting, that can eventually affect the alignment of a child’s teeth.
Schedule Your Orthodontic Appointment Today
With three different locations in the Dallas area, Ragan Orthodontics is committed to providing the absolute best when it comes to orthodontic care. Dr. Ragan and his team will be your guide as you begin your journey to a perfect smile. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.