Having a healthy smile is a necessary part of life, and both dentists and orthodontists specialize in the oral care you need at all stages of life. However, there are some differences between dentists and orthodontists that you should keep in mind when considering which type of specialist you need.

Dentists typically provide more general and preventive oral health services, such as fillings, gum care, and root canals. Orthodontists are more specialized, and often provide services in teeth and jaw alignment, and are usually seen for issues relating to braces and retainers. Most people will see a dentist more regularly than an orthodontist.

Both dentists and orthodontists are integral to your oral health, but depending on your individual needs you may not need to see both frequently. Keep reading to learn more about the difference between dentists and orthodontists and how you can determine which specialist you should choose.

How is a Dentist Different From an Orthodontist?

At first glance, the fields of dentistry and orthodontia may seem very similar. Both specialize in treating issues pertaining to the teeth and mouth and are considered knowledgeable medical doctors who can help you with your oral care.

There are, however, some key differences to keep in mind between the two professions.

What is Dentistry?

Dentistry is overall a more broad field than orthodontia, and dentists will be able to provide care for a variety of things. People most often choose to see a dentist for the following dental care reasons:

Additionally, people most often choose to visit their dentist more regularly than their orthodontist to receive a thorough cleaning and an overall checkup that will ensure their teeth and gums are healthy.

What is Orthodontia?

Orthodontia is a specialty of dentistry that focuses on teeth and jaw alignment. Although many people equate orthodontists with specializing in braces for crooked teeth, there are many services that orthodontists can provide. This includes the following:

  • Overbite and underbite correction
  • Crossbites
  • Crooked or crowded teeth
  • Jaw pain or chronic jaw issues

Many times, if you need orthodontic treatment, your dentist will notice this during a routine appointment and refer you to an orthodontist. While it is common for children to receive orthodontic care for braces and other corrective services, people can visit the orthodontist at all stages of life to treat persistent tooth and jaw issues.

Who Goes to School for Longer?

While both dentists and orthodontists will have a medical degree in the field of dentistry, orthodontists will have to spend usually two or three additional years specializing in the field of orthodontia and completing a residency program.

One way to think about it is that everyone who is an orthodontist is also a dentist, but not all dentists are orthodontists.

This does not mean, however, that your dentist is not highly qualified. For all issues not related to tooth and jaw alignment, you should seek the services of your dentist, as they are very knowledgeable in the field of general dental care.

Who Should You Contact First?

Typically, your dentist will be the first point of contact before seeing an orthodontist. Dentists are usually easier to secure an appointment with, and if they decide that you are a good candidate for orthodontia, they can refer you to an orthodontist and help get you on the list to receive care.

If you know that orthodontic treatment is needed, you can contact an orthodontist first. However, if you are undecided or wish for more information and guidance in the process, it is always a good idea to speak to your dentist.

Conclusion

While orthodontists and dentists are very similar, there are some key differences. Orthodontists are specialists, whereas dentists provide general oral care. It is best to equate a dentist with a general physician, and an orthodontist with a more specialized medical field.

Overall, you will most likely see your dentist more regularly than you do your orthodontist. Orthodontia is typically only a service sought when it is needed, and your dentist can provide the information you need to seek out orthodontic treatment. 

Markham Dentists can provide you with the support you need for everyday care and help you decide if you should see an orthodontist. Both dentists and orthodontists are trusted professionals who will help you make sure that your teeth and jaw stay healthy over your lifetime, ensuring a safe smile.