When it comes to oral healthcare, you have to decide whether to see an orthodontist or a dentist. Both the medical professionals study general dentistry and receive training for the diagnosis and treatment of conditions relating to your teeth, tongue, gums, and mouth. In order for an orthodontist to practice, additional education is required as they need to be able to diagnose and treat teeth and jaw misalignments.
Should you see a dentist or an orthodontist? It is an important question that requires a better understanding of the two professions before you can determine who to visit. To help you make the right decision, we have created the perfect post just for you. Read on to learn more about the differences between a dentist and an orthodontist.
What Is A Dentist?
Chances are that you have visited a dentist quite a few times in your life for professional cleanings. The truth is that seeing a dentist every six months is crucial for maintaining oral health. Dentistry is a diverse field that deals with the health of the mouth, teeth, gums, and jaw. A dentist can treat a wide range of dental health diseases and issues such as tooth decay, cavities, and even gingivitis. Thus, you have to go to the dentist for a professional dental check to make sure that you are in good hands.
During your visit to the dentist, your mouth and jaw will be checked to determine any potential problems and cleaned thoroughly. Dentists have to study at a college to get a degree in order to get admitted to a graduate school. They also require extensive training for getting certified. Around 80% of dentists practice general dentistry.
A certified dentist not only diagnosed oral health conditions but also treats them to ensure that your gums, teeth, mouth, and tongue are perfectly healthy. They also perform teeth cleanings. However, a dental hygienist would typically handle that. The following are some of the things that a dentist can do.
- Extra teeth
- Fill cavities
- Whiten teeth
- Teeth bonding
- Perform oral surgery
- Repair cracked teeth
- Conduct dental x-rays
- Install veneers or crowns
- Treat gum disease (i.e. gingivitis)
- Promote dental health and hygiene
- Prescribe treatment such as prescription drugs
- Monitor the development of your child’s teeth
What Is An Orthodontist?
On the other hand, an orthodontist specializes in improving dental flaws including crooked teeth, overcrowded teeth, and misaligned bites. They are licensed dentists who have to study a minimum of two additional years at university to learn more about orthodontics. Orthodontists inspect your bite to find the best solution. Although a dentist can perform a multitude of procedures, they might refer patients to an orthodontist if they believe that the oral care required is beyond their scope.
Now, it is important that you understand that orthodontic issues like misaligned or crooked teeth are not only superficial in nature but also contribute to various health problems such as bone destruction, speech impediments, lockjaw, and headaches. It is due to this reason that you need to discuss with your dentist whether you should see an orthodontist or not.
According to the American Association of Orthodontics, children should see an orthodontist at least once before they reach the age of 7. It ensures that the orthodontist is able to identify any potential problem early on and guide the child in the best way possible. An orthodontist is an oral health doctor just like a dentist. They are described as a type of dentist who specializes in tooth and jaw alignment. A certified orthodontist is trained to perform diagnoses and treat various dental health conditions that affect your gums, teeth, and mouth. However, the main job of an orthodontist is to ensure that your teeth and jaw have proper alignment. Here are some of the things that an orthodontist can do.
- Perform teeth straightening procedure
- Devise a treatment plan which includes retainers and braces
- Conduct diagnosis and treat misaligned jaws and teeth (i.e. malocclusion)
- Supervise facial growth in children to ensure proper bite and jawline alignment
- Install dental appliances including Herbst appliances, orthodontic headgear, palatal expanders, or braces.
What Makes A Dentist Different From An Orthodontist?
Both a dentist and an orthodontist are required to hold a bachelor’s degree and study at a dental school where they must finish a four-year doctoral program for becoming a general dentist. Upon graduating, both of the parties have to practice dentistry. Then, a dentist who has an interest in specializing in orthodontics can apply and complete an orthodontic resistance. Since orthodontics specialty residency is highly sought after, only a few candidates are accepted each year. This means that only the most dedicated and intelligent dentist has a chance to get accepted.
After getting accepted to pursue an orthodontic residency, there is also a need to pursue a two or three-year program at a university that the American Dental Association has accredited. The university teaches a strict curriculum that focuses on correcting skeletal discrepancies, facial growth, crooked misaligned teeth, poor bites, and more.
An extensive educational foundation is required by both dentists and orthodontists in order to practice the desired profession. To sum it up, a dentist receives 8 years of higher education, whereas, an orthodontist has to study for 10 to 11 years in order to become a specialist in the field. It is worth mentioning that orthodontists have to limit their practice to only orthodontics. This means that an orthodontist is the go-to person for treating and caring for your orthodontic needs.
It is obvious that there is an overlap between dentists and orthodontists since all orthodontists are dentists. However, only a few dentists pursue an orthodontic specialty training program for an additional 2 to 3 years in order to specialize in orthodontics. Generally, an orthodontist specializes in the alignment of teeth and jaws. As for a dentist, you can visit one to achieve a healthier, cleaner smile through regular cleanings and even surgery if required.
In case you experience any of the following, you should visit a dentist for much-needed oral care.
- You are concerned about the health of your gums, teeth, or mouth.
- You think that you are suffering from tooth decay, cavity, or even gum disease.
- You want to find out how to take proper care of your mouth for preventing dental issues and disease.
Your dentist would check your dental health to provide necessary hygienic care. Otherwise, if you experience any of the following, it would be best that you schedule an appointment with an orthodontist as soon as possible.
- You have an under or overbite.
- Your teeth are causing pain and ache.
- You have crooked, overcrowded, or misaligned teeth.
- Your teeth impact your ability to eat or speak properly.
When you visit an orthodontist, they would inspect your teeth and jaw alignment to determine how to correct your bite. You should consider a dentist as a general practitioner, while an orthodontist is an expert in orthodontics. In most cases, you just need to see a dentist as they would handle all types of dental issues such as tooth repair, tooth decay, tooth pain, and tooth extraction. In addition to this, the dentist would also treat oral infections, oral inflammation, and gum disease. Only if there is something very serious such as palate expansion, tooth crowding, or jaw malocclusion that a dentist cannot handle would they refer you to an orthodontist.
If you think that your child who is under the age of 7 requires braces, you should get an orthodontist to assess their teeth for the best course of action. As for adults who suspect that they have crooked teeth or jawlines and wish to get it aligned, they can simply visit an orthodontist to get their teeth or jawline aligned.
When it comes to visiting an orthodontist, you should keep in mind that not every orthodontic treatment is likely to be covered by insurance no matter how extensive your dental coverage might be. The reason behind this is that an orthodontist is considered a specialist. However, your insurance company might require you to first seek a referral from your dentist before paying you for your trip to the orthodontist.
Since a dentist can handle most dental issues, it is best that you see a dentist to utilize your dental coverage. Otherwise, you would have to pay out of pocket for oral care that you could have already received at a dentist’s office. Hence, you should think things through to save money and get the treatment that you require.
Springfield Gentle Dental
If you require oral care, you should consider booking an appointment with Springfield Gentle Dental. We are the experts in the field and use the latest treatment technology and modalities to provide the best treatment to our patients. Boasting extensive experience in the field of general dentistry, we can perform all types of procedures to promote oral health and hygiene. All you have to do is reach out to us and we will guide you every step of the day.