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


You’ve gone to the dentist your whole life, and now you’re taking your kids. That’s excellent! Dentists have an important role to play in helping you keep your children’s teeth healthy. But what about an orthodontist? What role do they play? What’s the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?


One of the most important differences between a dentist and an orthodontist, at least for parents and their kids, is what each one focuses on. Dentists handle general tooth care, cleaning and maintenance. Orthodontists, on the other hand, are a bit more specialized. If you break down the word “orthodontist”, the focus becomes apparent. “Ortho” means straight, upright, or erect. “Odont” refers to the teeth, while “ist” refers to someone who follows or practices something. Put it all together and you’ve got someone whose practice focuses on straightening teeth.


Education is another point at which dentists and orthodontists differ, at least somewhat. They generally follow more or less the same training and education path through dental school and the certification test. Beyond that point, orthodontists enter an orthodontic residency for two to three more years. This allows them to get the additional training and experience they’ll need in order to be a successful orthodontist. After completing their residency, they complete additional certification tests that allow them to start practicing.


Who sees a dentist and who sees an orthodontist? Again, there’s a fair bit of overlap, as everyone should see a dentist, and some people will benefit from seeing an orthodontist. This is because everyone benefits from receiving expert dental care and cleanings, which is something dentists provide. Those struggling with alignment issues or teeth that aren’t where they should be are best helped by seeing an orthodontist. In short, more specialized problems require more specialized treatment methods, which an orthodontist can provide.

It’s always a good idea to have an understanding of what any given medical professional does if you’re going to see them for treatment. That’s part of what helps you decide if you need to see them or not in the first place. When it comes to taking care of your child’s teeth, odds are that they’ll benefit from the attention of both a dentist and an orthodontist. It’s really a matter of knowing who to see and when.

It’s pretty easy to find an awesome orthodontist for your child. Meet Dr. Dan, our resident orthodontist here at Showtime Smiles.

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