What is the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?

Dr. Tosun

You see your dentist several times a year for an oral health checkup, cleaning, and x-rays. They keep your teeth and gums clean, cavity free, and your mouth as healthy as possible. But what is an orthodontist? 

Both dentists and orthodontists are dedicated to oral health. While all orthodontists are dentists, not all dentists are orthodontists. Today we’ll dive into everything you need to know about the difference between an orthodontist and dentist.

What does a Dentist Do?

Dentists are educated and trained in oral health. Like all other doctors, dentists are extensively trained and require certifications to perform oral health care. Dentists specialize in helping their patients understand and manage their oral health. Licensed dentists diagnose and treat oral health conditions of your teeth, gums, tongue, and mouth. They also perform regular checkups and can clean your teeth, but dental hygienists usually take care of that. 

Dentists perform the following:

  • regular checkups
  • teeth cleaning
  • promote oral health
  • take and interpret x-rays
  • fill cavities and perform root canals
  • diagnose and treat gum disease (such as gingivitis)
  • install crowns and veneers
  • diagnose a bad bite 
  • repair cracked teeth 
  • bond teeth
  • extract teeth
  • perform oral surgery

What does an Orthodontist Do?

Orthodontists receive additional education and training to practice orthopedic services and procedures. During their residency program, orthodontists receive in depth instruction to learn proper, safe tooth movement (orthodontics) and the guidance of dental, jaw and facial development (dentofacial orthopedics). These additional years of education qualify the orthodontist as a dental specialist in moving teeth and aligning jaws. This is the sole focus of their practice.

Orthodontists diagnose and treat dental and facial irregularities. Not only do orthodontists treat existing problems, they can also identify problems as they are developing to take action to resolve the problems before they fully develop. Orthodontists treat patients of all ages, they regularly treat children, adolescents and adults. 

What is the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?

Orthodontist can treat the following:

  • Teeth that are crowded or too far apart
  • Teeth that meet abnormally
  • Teeth that don’t meet
  • Teeth that stick out
  • Teeth that cannot erupt (impacted teeth)
  • Jaw joint problems
  • Mismatched jaws
  • Dental and skeletal asymmetries
  • Bad habits such as thumb sucking or mouth breathing causing orthodontic problems in children

Orthodontist Training and Qualifications

Orthodontists and dentists receive a great deal of the same education. However orthodontists receive additional education and training to practice orthodontics. This is similar to all doctors going to med school but surgeons receiving additional education to practice surgery. After graduating from dental school and taking the certification test, orthodontists attend an orthodontic residency program for an additional 2 to 3 years to earn their additional specialty certification in orthodontics. Residency programs are highly competitive. 

Orthodontists Create Custom Treatment Plans

Orthodontic treatment is not “one size fits all” approach. Each patient is different. Orthodontists use in-person exams and the latest innovative technologies to create a personalized treatment plan for each and every patient considering several factors such as age or nature and severity of the orthodontic problem etc. Orthodontists use a full range of tools to rectify orthodontic problems. These tools, also called “appliances,” is the term used for the medical devices used to move teeth and jaws. This can range from traditional (metal or ceramic) braces, lingual braces (hidden braces that go behind the teeth) and clear aligners to headgear, retainers, spacers or mouth guards (etc.). Orthodontists are uniquely qualified to recommend the most appropriate type of “appliance” to correct each patient’s problem.

Dr. Tosun Dentistry

At Dr. Tosun Dental Clinic, we strive to help our patients maintain their dental health and enhance their smiles by creating a safe and comfortable environment for their dental needs. We use cutting edge technologies for the comfort of our patients and to make their treatments more effective and efficient. Our experienced team of dental professionals leverages your experience with the latest dental practices to help create beautiful smiles. 

If you are interested in learning more about oral health or orthodontics, we’d love to help. Contact a member of our team to learn more.


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    Dr. Tosun is proud of offering world-class dental services to his patients in an interdisciplinary team approach. He believes dentistry is a harmonious combination of art, science and passion and strives to create beautiful smiles built on trust and compassion. His focus is that the customers have a smooth journey and great dental experiences and leave his practice with a smile on their face.