AAO Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX

What Is the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?

Although not as widely discussed, oral health is just as important as that of the lungs or heart. The mouth serves as a gateway for bacteria to enter the body, so brushing and flossing are crucial to maintaining natural defenses. Regular visits to an oral healthcare provider are also necessary, but you may wonder if you need a dentist or orthodontist? At Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, Texas, we have answers to all your oral health questions, including which provider you need at which time.

Oral Hygiene and Overall Health

If you walk into any big-box store, you’re going to see at least one aisle devoted to displays of toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash. What’s the big deal? Using these items as part of a daily hygiene routine can keep bacteria at bay. This is essential to preventing oral infections, like gum disease and tooth decay, which can lead to even more health problems. Conditions that might be linked to poor oral hygiene include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Endocarditis
  • Cancer
  • Pneumonia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Oral manifestations of HIV disease

Oral Health Statistics

The Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 found that some 3.5 billion people across the globe suffer from oral diseases. According to the World Health Organization:

  • Nearly 100% of adults have at least one tooth cavity
  • More than 530 million children have tooth decay
  • Almost 10% of the global population has severe gum disease
  • Most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in early stages

The Role of Oral Care Providers

Dentists and orthodontists play key roles in helping patients maintain oral health. While distinctly different, both are doctors who focus on the same overall goal: to provide oral care to keep your teeth, gums, and jaw safe. The primary difference between dentists and orthodontists is in training. The former receive education to diagnose and treat mouth conditions, including those of the teeth, gums, and tongue. The latter receive the same education but are additionally trained to diagnose and treat teeth and jaw misalignments.

A Day With a Dentist

Most dentists have a general practice. Although they can clean your teeth, dental hygienists typically perform that work. This frees your provider to focus on dental care and treatments. Commonly, dentists perform teeth whitening, cavity fillings, tooth extractions, bridges, and crown or veneer installs. Some dentists also perform oral surgery, like root canals and wisdom tooth removal.

One of the most crucial parts of a dental visit is the exam. During this time, the dentist will read an x-ray of your mouth and use instruments to tap or scrape your teeth. This allows a diagnosis to be made, which in turn is used to create a treatment plan that will optimize your oral health. Your dentist will also discuss your oral hygiene practices and make recommendations. If you need medications for oral infection, the prescriptions will come from your dentist.

A primary responsibility of dentistry is educating patients about the proper ways to brush and floss. Young children in particular need to learn oral hygiene practices so they can employ them throughout their lives. This means dentists spend time demonstrating techniques. They also make outside referrals if patient exams reveal additional health problems.

A Day With an Orthodontist

The focus of orthodontia is ensuring your teeth and jaw are set correctly. In order to properly diagnose orthodontic needs and provide the necessary treatments, orthodontist dallas tx attend a two- or three-year residency program beyond dental school that provides a specialty certification. This allows these doctors to straighten teeth with surgery, install dental appliances, and diagnose and treat misaligned teeth and jaws.

Orthodontia also fixes crooked teeth and helps to correct overcrowding of and spaces between teeth. Any or all of these therapies can improve a patient’s smile, one of the foremost reasons people seek orthodontic care. In this way, dentistry and orthodontia work hand-in-hand for both the care and appearance of patients’ mouths. But please keep in mind orthodontia focuses on more than smile enhancement, which we’ll get into later.

What to Expect From Orthodontia

At our office, your first appointment will start with pictures of your teeth and bite. You may also need an x-ray, and all of these images will assist Dr. Ragan during your exam. He will show you the results on-screen so you can see what he sees, and the two of you will discuss your treatment plan and immediate next steps. We are always committed to your comfort, which is why we operate a state-of-the-art facility. Digital impressions are made with computer-aided design. We can perform 3D X-rays, and we have an in-house lab with specially-trained technicians.

The Assessment Process

Before beginning treatment, Dr. Raglan will learn all he can about your bite, gums, and teeth alignment. In some cases, our patients receive referrals from their dentists, and it’s recommended that all children before the age of seven see an orthodontist dallas to assess the later need for braces. Adults with crooked jawlines or teeth that need to be aligned often seek orthodontic care on their own, without the referral of a dentist.

Your treatment plan may be impacted by face growth, severely crowded teeth, and wisdom teeth. Additionally, treatment plans include all cost information – affordability is one of our top priorities. Finally, you’ll have ample opportunity to ask our staff any lingering questions, such as those concerning treatment timeframes and best oral hygiene practices. Our friendly, knowledgable staff is here to support your entire orthodontic journey.

Common Orthodontic Treatments

Orthodontia and dentistry vary greatly in terms of patient treatments. A dentist can diagnose and treat concerns like tooth pain and decay. Dentists also treat oral inflammation, gum disease, and oral infections. The easiest way to view the two practices is like this: in terms of traditional medicine providers, dentistry should be considered a general practice, while orthodontia is akin to a specialization. Some common orthodontic treatments include:

Palatal Expanders

These orthodontic devices attach to the upper jaw. They are used on younger patients to prevent and treat bad bites (malocclusions). The purpose is to make room so teeth better fit together. Essentially, palatal expanders widen a child’s jaw to allow space for developing teeth. This treatment is easy and affords little or no pain. Each expander is custom-made to ensure it perfectly fits a child’s jaw, and in later years, young patients typically wear braces to ensure proper teeth positioning.

This is a treatment for which a dentist may refer a patient to an orthodontic practice. While examining a patient’s teeth, he or she may feel orthodontia is necessary to correct, such as in this case, overcrowding teeth. This example helps demonstrate how the two fields work together and provide different but complementing services.


People of all ages turn to braces as a way to improve their smiles and boost their confidence. Kids and teens typically use metal braces, an option that is both affordable and made of strong, highly-durable metal. We use the Meistro System, which provides for the smallest, smoothest, and most comfortable braces. They’re also easy to clean and available in different colors.

Adult patients usually choose ceramic or lingual braces because they are more discreet than metal. The former option is completely translucent and stain-resistant, so patients don’t have to worry about discoloration. Lingual braces, on the other hand, are affixed to the inner surfaces of teeth and are ideal for people concerned with how braces may impact their appearance. This option requires specialized training that Dr. Raglan has undergone to provide patients with the most options possible.

As with palatal binders, a dentist may recommend braces after seeing a patient for a routine check-up. A dentist may not know all of the options available, but he or she can serve as the first step in recommending orthodontic care. This is especially true of young patients, who may have overbites that parents haven’t even yet detected.

Retainers and Aligners

Our office proudly offers Invisalign Aligners, which straighten teeth without braces. These appliances are well-suited to pre-teens, teens, and adults. Younger patients already dealing with school pressures don’t have to worry about the potential for teasing that comes with metal braces. Similarly, adults can straighten their teeth almost without anyone knowing. The treatment lasts between six and 15 months while teeth move in a gentle, comfortable manner.

The Carriere Distalizer

Earlier, we discussed that a dentist can see if your bite needs to be corrected. The all-encompassing service provided by dentistry is just one reason it’s so important to attend your regular check-ups. If he or she determines you have an overbite that requires orthodontic attention, the Carriere Distalizer offers treatment without the use of traditional headgear. This appliance also allows our staff to treat malocclusions more quickly and efficiently. Once the bite is corrected, a healthy smile can be continued with braces or aligners.

Sports Mouth Guards

Playing sports can mean the need for equipment designed to protect the head, elbows, knees, and other vulnerable parts of the body. One often-overlooked area that requires attention – especially in children – is that of the mouth. Mouthguards protect the teeth, which can be chipped or broken during high-impact sports. Our staff custom makes mouthguards to ensure they mold perfectly to the teeth, without the bulk and discomfort of ill-fitting mouthguards. We know this is important because, as a parent, you want to ensure your child’s teeth are safe.

While a dentist may discuss with you and your child the need for a mouthguard, orthodontic care performs the fitting and delivery. Again, you can see how the two fields work in tandem to provide a complete care package. Dentistry can provide the first alert when additional tooth or jaw care is needed, and orthodontia can assess and treat.

Thumb Guards

Many children suck their thumbs, but if the habit continues beyond ages three or four, oral health problems can develop. We offer different solutions, one of which is the Thumb Guard appliance. Worn on one hand, the Thumb Guard removes the suction that children find soothing. The loss of this pleasurable feeling leads children to stop sucking their thumbs. The Thumb Guard is made of soft, flexible plastic without chemicals, so it will not cause your child to become ill.

Get the Best of Both Worlds

It’s important to remember that orthodontic and dental care should happen simultaneously. Throughout your time as a patient with our office, you’ll need to continue seeing your dentist for regular cleanings and exams. Call Ragan Orthodontics of Dallas, Texas today to learn how our treatments can give you a beautiful, healthy smile and improve your overall oral hygiene. With more than 20 years of experience, we offer knowledgable and compassionate care backed by the latest technology.