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What is the Difference Between an Orthodontist and a Dentist?

What Is the Difference Between an Orthodontist and a Dentist?


Do you need a dentist or orthodontist? The two terms are not interchangeable, though they are often confused with each other. What is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist? We’ll outline several differences between the two dental professions here. 


Their Education

An orthodontist spends four years in college, four years to five years in dental school and an additional two to three years in a graduate program to learn orthodontics. This means an orthodontist has spent several more years in school than a dentist, explaining their higher rates. This also affects the work orthodontists choose to do though they may be qualified to do all types of dental work. 


The Work They Do

An orthodontist is a highly trained specialist dealing with structural issues with the patient’s teeth and jaw. This is why you see an orthodontist to have braces put on. However, orthodontists rarely do the work that is the mainstay of dental offices. For example, you’ll need to see a dentist to have your teeth whitened or a cavity filled. Both may make mouth guards for bruxism or sleep apnea. Orthodontists are more likely get referrals for jaw pain, speech impediments and difficulty chewing. Dentists are more likely to treat gum disease and dental infections. 


Working Conditions

One advantage of being an orthodontist is that they work 30 to 40 hours a week in a relatively low stress position. They often work afternoons and weekends, given how many of their patients are adolescents still in school. However, they don’t get panicked calls because someone cracked a tooth chomping down on ice or has sudden jaw pain. They don’t work on call or handle emergency cases like some dentists do.  

The Type of Visits

Orthodontists tend to see patients when there is a malocclusion or bad bite. Patients typically see an orthodontist only after teeth are crooked or their bit is misaligned. Ideally, a patient will never see an orthodontist in their lifetime. Conversely, patients should see their dentist twice a year to maintain their oral health. Dentists will work with patients to protect their teeth as well as monitor the patient’s health. For example, a dentist may inspect for lesions that are the first sign of oral and throat cancer or check for gum problems that suggest someone is developing diabetes. Also, if you’re looking for one of the best orthodontists in your area, you should check out


In fact, you will likely continue to see your regular dentist for cleanings while seeing an orthodontist who is treating a specific problem. And you’ll continue to see your dentist for years after you’ve walked out the orthodontist’s office. 


Note that orthodontists and dentists may work together, such as when the dentist refers a patient to the orthodontist for braces or the orthodontist sends someone to the dentist to treat a cracked crown. And a dentist may send you to for an orthodontic evaluation after the dentist has removed impacted wisdom teeth. Orthodontists have the expertise to treat a deteriorating jaw, though either dental professional may do dental implants. Both types of dentists may order 3D printed guards to hold teeth in place, though only orthodontics includes invisible braces to push teeth into alignment.

Samantha hails from Virginia and is a proud wife to a retired Deputy Sheriff and mother to two amazing little boys named Jack & William. A veteran product reviewer; Samantha has been reviewing products for 8 years and offers high quality product reviews with original photography.

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