When you need your teeth and your gums checked, or if a tooth is damaged, you’ll want to make an appointment with a dentist. But if you’d like a more confident smile, or have concerns because of crooked teeth, you’ll want to visit an orthodontist who specializes in straightening or realigning teeth.
An orthodontist and a dentist are not the same
If you stand them side-by-side, dentists and orthodontists seem quite similar. Both earn a bachelor’s degree and are required to complete a doctorate in dentistry. Once this education is complete, a general dentist can begin working in a practice, examining teeth, taking X-rays, filling cavities and making other repairs.
Orthodontists, however, must continue their education, including being accepted as a student in an accredited orthodontic residency program and successful completion of a minimum of two academic years of additional study. During these years, the orthodontic student learns the skills required for patient management, the growth and development of children, about airways and breathing, and about aligning teeth and guiding facial development.
Additional ways orthodontists differ from dentists
Only those who have successfully completed the additional formal education may call themselves “orthodontists.”
Orthodontists limit their scope of work to orthodontics only.
Orthodontists are uniquely qualified in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of orthodontic problems. They dedicate their professional lives to creating healthy, beautiful smiles in children, teens and adults. Well-aligned teeth are more than attractive: They make it possible to bite, chew and speak effectively. Orthodontic care is often part of a comprehensive oral health plan.
Orthodontists use a variety of “appliances,” including braces, clear aligner trays and retainers, to move teeth or hold them in their new positions. Because of orthodontists’ advanced education and clinical experience, they have the knowledge and skills necessary to recommend the best kind of appliance to meet every individual patient’s treatment goals.
Only orthodontists are eligible for membership in the American Association of Orthodontists.
Orthodontists have the education and experience to fix many of the issues that can be corrected with braces:
Overbites and underbites
Crowding and spacing
Openbites and crossbites
Breathing, speech and airway issues
Facial growth imbalances
How orthodontists and dentists work together
Although dentists and orthodontists may have different specialties, they work together to provide the best in oral health. When visiting your general dentist for a bi-annual checkup and teeth cleaning, he or she may notice issues that could be corrected with orthodontics.
Whether you’re referred by your regular dentist or decide to visit us on your own, your first visit will include an exam and discussion of issues you may be having. We will then recommend a course of treatment that may include braces. It’s very important that while you’re going through your orthodontic treatment process, you visit your dentist regularly for thorough exams and teeth cleaning.
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