It’s a well-known fact that good oral health care is an essential part of your oral, as well as your overall health. But even though we know how important it is to visit our dentists for regular checkups and cleanings, it can often be difficult to decide whether you need additional dental care, such as the expertise of an orthodontist. To help you make the best decision for your dental health, it’s necessary to highlight the biggest differences between orthodontists and dentists, as well as the unique forms of care they provide.
What is a dentist’s job?
As doctors specializing in oral health, dentists tend to perform regular oral examinations and fix any health issues that might arise, whether that means repairing broken teeth, locating and filling cavities, extracting dead teeth, treating most gum diseases, performing cosmetic procedures like teeth whitening and installing veneers, or even performing minor surgeries in certain instances.
During a regular appointment, dentists usually do a thorough checkup of the patient’s overall oral health, looking for any signs of common diseases, and will likely give advice on how the patient can maintain optimal oral health. While a dentist’s job could be more extensive depending on their training and certifications, in most places like the US and European countries, dentists will focus on general oral health, opting to refer patients to specialists in case any specific, uncommon issues arise, which they are not necessarily qualified to treat.
What is an orthodontist’s job?
Even though orthodontists are oral health doctors as well, they specialize in orthodontics, or the alignment of teeth and jaws, in other words. This means that orthodontists are qualified to diagnose and treat most oral health issues, just like dentists, but they mostly focus on orthodontic aspects such as correcting crowded and gapped teeth, treating misaligned jaws and teeth, as well as performing teeth-straightening surgery.
Orthodontists also have a number of tools that allow them to ensure proper alignment, from more conventional braces to newer “invisible” aligners, while also utilizing methods such as X-rays and scans to construct a personalized treatment plan suited to the unique needs of a patient. In countries like Australia, for instance, where picture-perfect teeth are slowly becoming the norm, patients often decide to visit a trusted and experienced orthodontist in Sydney who can provide excellent care and an ideally aligned smile, perfectly tailored to the patient’s wishes and requirements.
The differences in education
Dentists and orthodontists tend to complete the same course of education initially, but orthodontists require further qualification and training in order to acquire their title. According to the American Dental Association, dentists have to complete a four-year undergraduate school, as well as a four-year dental school, before they can pass several rigorous exams in order to receive their qualifications.
Orthodontists have to go through this same procedure as well, but they must pursue further education, including nearly 5,000 hours of specialized training, as well as a two- or three-year residency, in order to be qualified to practice. Although the exact education and training requirements might differ from country to country, the process is quite similar to the American principle all around the world.
Who do you need to see?
When it comes to oral health, a dentist should be considered a general practitioner, while an orthodontist should be viewed as a specialist. This means that your dentist is the person you will be seeing most frequently, whether it comes to your regular yearly checkup or any specific issues you might encounter in the meantime, such as tooth pain, bleeding gums, inflammation, etc.
On the other hand, it’s recommended to see an orthodontist if you have specific issues like crooked teeth or a jaw that needs to be aligned, or if you simply wish for straighter teeth for cosmetic purposes. Children should also be taken to an orthodontic exam before the age of seven, to see whether their jaws and teeth are developing properly, and whether they require any corrections.
Evidently, orthodontists and dentists are two different types of doctors who complete separate courses of education and specialize in unique areas. While the general rule of seeing an orthodontist for alignment issues and a dentist for any other problems might be enough in most cases, it can also be a good idea to ask your dentist for a referral if you’re not sure whether you actually require an orthodontist.