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When you think about getting your oral health checked, dentists and orthodontists likely come to mind. Because they sound extremely similar, some people think they're part of the same profession.
While both dentists and orthodontists are in the same field of oral health care, their responsibilities differ. They both keep your mouth healthy, but they do so in different ways.
As practitioners of oral care, both dentists and orthodontists:
Dentists and orthodontists partake in training and education to prepare them to treat:
The key component to remember is that all orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists.
Orthodontists can have their own dental office and perform the same procedures as a general dentist. Their specialization, however, sets them apart. In fact, there are nine other types of dentists.
Both dentists and orthodontists are trained in various oral health procedures and treatments. Distinctively, there are reasons you go to the dentist over the orthodontist and vice versa.
Dentists can help with:
Orthodontists, on the other hand, can help with:
It’s easiest to distinguish one from the other by the kind of treatment services they offer. To further understand what sets them apart, it's important to know other aspects of each profession.
Dentists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of oral diseases and disorders. They also teach their patients about good oral hygiene and other preventive measures.
Like all doctors, dentists undergo necessary, extensive education and training before practicing in a professional setting.
To become a dentist, you must go to college for a pre-dentistry, pre-medical, or other science-related degree before proceeding to a school for dentistry.
After earning a 4-year bachelor's degree, a person takes a Dental Admissions Test (DAT). This will determine whether or not they are qualified to enter dental school.
Dental school typically lasts 4 years. People who graduate dental school earn either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree.
In dental school, students engage in different levels of training each year:
To become certified practitioners, dentists must pass the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) after graduating from dental school.
To become a dentist, you must:
After completing a dental degree from an accredited school, passing the written and clinical portions of the National Board Dental Examination will secure dental licensure. You can become licensed in both general and specialized dentistry.
Dentists provide the following services:
An orthodontist is a dental specialist that fixes tooth alignment. They diagnose a variety of dental issues, such as:
Unlike a general dentist, orthodontists can provide orthodontic treatments such as:
Both dentists and orthodontists can provide clear aligner treatment. Orthodontists tend to have more experience, but with good continuing education, dentists can treat aligner cases too.
Orthodontists usually major in pre-dental or pre-medical studies in college before enrolling in dental school. They also typically go through a similar process to become a dentist.
As dental specialists, orthodontists are required to undergo additional specialty education.
Depending on the curriculum, you must complete orthodontic residency for at least 2 to 3 years after graduating from dental school.
Aspiring orthodontists must master many procedures and typical orthodontic practices during this education. This is because they are pursuing a dental specialty.
Orthodontics are trained in:
To qualify as an orthodontist, you must complete the following programs:
After completing the orthodontic program, you will receive a master's degree or an orthodontics certificate.
After residency, you must also pass the American Board of Orthodontics (AOB) exam. Once you pass, you’ll earn a certificate and the ability to perform orthodontic services.
Orthodontist services include:
Knowing how dentists and orthodontists differ is essential to get the right treatment and care for your needs. Think of a dentist as a general practitioner and an orthodontist as a specialist.
A dentist can address most standard dental issues. Visit your dentist if you need treatment or services for:
An orthodontist provides treatments more related to the structure of your mouth and teeth.
Visit your orthodontist for more special cases, such as: