What does a dentist do, and what does an orthodontist do? Both take care of teeth. But the role each professional plays in keeping your teeth healthy differs.
Let’s start with a similarity: both dentists and orthodontists have completed dental school and are qualified as a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). Both are highly trained on how teeth stay healthy, which includes a broad base of medical knowledge. They understand the administration of drugs, along with the diagnosis and treatment of infection and disease.
However, orthodontists receive additional instruction and training in their speciality – aligning teeth and jaws.
Dentists Treat a Broad Range of Dental Problems
Think of a dentist as a general practitioner or family doctor for your teeth. You should see a dentist frequently throughout your life for cleaning, the treatment of tooth decay, and the extraction of teeth that are too decayed to save. Dentists also perform teeth whitening. They put on crowns and veneers when needed, usually after teeth have suffered decay.
Dentists should function as primary caregivers for oral health. They can treat many problems with the teeth and spot many other issues. They are generally the professional who refers a patient to an orthodontist for further treatment.
Orthodontists Improve the Alignment of Teeth and Jaws
People often think of orthodontics as a primarily cosmetic procedure that improves the straightness of teeth. While orthodontics does provide that benefit, it is also concerned with more profound issues.
The alignment of the teeth and jaws determines bite and the ability to chew effectively. Improper alignment can also cause grinding of teeth and/or jaw pain. An orthodontist will diagnose these problems with an examination and X-rays, then develop a course of treatment to correct the issues.
In extreme cases, an orthodontist may in turn refer a patient to yet another specialist – the oral surgeon. If profound jaw alignment or other issues exist, the first step may be to surgically correct these problems before attempting to straighten the teeth.
An orthodontist, like from John Redmond Orthodontics, should be the dental professional who puts braces on a patient and manages this course of treatment. Their training beyond dental school, which usually includes a residency, gives them an understanding of how to adjust the braces from one visit to the next. This progressive alignment of the teeth requires frequent revision of the braces, retainers, and other hardware while the patient is in braces.
Both dentists and orthodontists are dental professionals. But orthodontists have received the specialized training necessary to improve the alignment of your jaws and teeth.