What’s the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?

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There’s no question that taking care of your mouth is essential for living a healthy and fulfilling life. Habits like brushing, flossing, and eating healthy are always good choices, but there’s a lot more to oral health than just regular maintenance.

The mouth is like any other part of the body; it’s a complex thing with layers of different parts and processes interacting with one another. As such, there are specialists who work on the mouth in specific ways. The two most common oral health specialists are dentists and orthodontists, who perform similar (but distinct) services. 

Orthodontists vs. Dentists

Though both are highly trained professionals who work with oral health, they’re actually two completely unique disciplines. Initially, both must attend dental school after earning a related bachelor’s degree. After graduating, dentists will become either a D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine).

From there, they can move on to practicing general dentistry or choose to pursue a specialty, like orthodontics. To become an orthodontist, dentists have to complete another two to three years of education. This is most often done through a residency program, but there are also other options. Only about 6% of dentists choose to do this, but those who do acquire more specialized knowledge to prepare them for providing more advanced services. Afterward, they’ll not have their initial degree (D.D.S. or D.M.D.), but they’ll also obtain a Master of Science (MS) degree.

What Dentists Do

Chances are, you’ve had your fair share of dentist visits by now. You’re aware that they provide checkups, cleanings, fillings, and other day-to-day services for keeping teeth healthy. The truth is, dentists can perform a range of services, from general dentistry services to cosmetic services, like providing crowns, veneers, or implants.

Regular visits to your dentist are essential for taking care of oral health needs, but no dentist can do everything. Most of your basic dental needs, including some orthodontic work, can be performed by a dentist. In some cases, however, you may need someone who focuses on orthodontics as a specialty. 

What Orthodontists Do

Orthodontists are dentists, but they’re dentists who provide more specialized services. Generally speaking, orthodontic work is about repositioning your teeth and jaw. Though it might sound simple, it takes considerable knowledge and skill to do safely. Straining the muscles and bones of your mouth is a bad idea in most circumstances, but when done correctly, it can make an enormous difference to your overall health, appearance, and self-esteem.

The most well-known service provided by orthodontists is braces, but they can also provide other corrective appliances, such as wires, retainers, Invisalign, and more. You may be referred to an orthodontist by your general dentist, but you may also make an appointment with one directly if you think you think you or your child may need one.

It’s especially important to schedule a visit early on to avoid complications from teeth that are poorly aligned. Taking care of the shape of your teeth is important for more than just appearances. For anyone with an overbite, underbite, or otherwise misaligned teeth, orthodontic treatment is absolutely necessary so teeth grow correctly, function properly, and stay safe from accidental damage. 

Professional Orthodontics in St. Augustine

Henry Orthodontics provides orthodontic services for children and adults in St. Augustine, St. Johns, and the surrounding FL communities. To learn more, give us a call at 904-295-1364 or schedule a free consultation today. We can’t wait to meet you!