Dentist vs. Orthodontist for Braces

It’s not uncommon for both dentists and orthodontists to field patient questions regarding the difference is between our two professions. In fact, many people mistakenly assume that the two are more or less the same, with only a few differences that make them distinctive.   

For instance, when someone is looking for information on orthodontic treatments like braces, it’s imperative that he or she understands what an orthodontist like Dr. Shaw can offer that a general dentist cannot.

Now, if you have been wondering whether you or your child could benefit from braces, read on to find out more about the differences between dentists and orthodontists so you can make an informed decision on which is best for you or your child’s orthodontic treatment.

Similarities and differences

Orthodontists and dentists deal with many of the same dental issues, but whether they differ is in their method of care.

Dentists address most general dental problems like tooth decay and gum disease, so it could be said that they specialize in issues with the teeth and gums. Dentists focus on maintaining their patients’ good oral hygiene and perform regular cleanings every six months.

Orthodontists are dentists who have decided to expand their education and complete at least a two-year residency program in orthodontics. They spend a lot of time studying the jaw and how teeth move. Orthodontists address more severe dental issues like tooth and jaw alignment. They deal most often with issues regarding bite, called malocclusions. Some of the most common problems treated are:

  • overbite
  • underbite
  • crowded teeth
  • crossbite
  • improperly spaced teeth

It’s also important to note there are dentists who specialize in a variety of types of oral care. A periodontist, for example, is a specialist who treats the gums and the bones beneath the teeth. You can think of an orthodontist as a dentist who specializes in the alignment of the teeth.

Education and training

Both orthodontists and dentists graduate from dental school, but from there, orthodontists take a different road. Only those students in the top of their class in dental school will be accepted into an orthodontics program. Acceptance into an orthodontic residency program is actually extremely competitive. After they are accepted, they receive training and experience fixing bite issues and straightening teeth. Only once they successfully complete this residency can they be called an orthodontist.  

Can a general dentist straighten teeth?

Technically, yes, dentists can straighten teeth, but with a few caveats. The dentist providing care must commit to taking continuing education seminars and acquiring extra experience on the subject. Unfortunately, many workshops and seminars which would qualify as “continuing education” lack rigorous testing and examinations to truly gauge if the material was mastered as it should be.

In summation, here’s what we learned about the difference and similarities between orthodontists and dentists:

  • Both are dentists who specialize in oral care.
  • All orthodontists are dentists; however, only about 10% of dentists are orthodontists.
  • Orthodontists complete an additional two or three years of training in a competitive orthodontics residency program.
  • Dentists will often refer their patients to an orthodontist if there are alignment problems or a bite abnormality

Orthodontists focus exclusively on orthodontic care and treatment. As this is our only specialty, we spend a lot of time perfecting it! We perform teeth straightening procedures daily and stay up-to-date on all the latest best practices and technology, invest in the newest equipment, and are frequent participants and leaders are orthodontic classes, seminars, and workshops.

Because we specialize in one thing, we can offer the very best customized treatment to each and every patient. General dentists, who deal with a few issues, might be more inclined to use a one-size-fits-all approach.

Should you choose a dentist or an orthodontist for braces treatment?

This is sort of like asking if you want a regular doctor to treat you when you need open heart surgery. The best way to ensure the optimal care you deserve is by receiving treatment from someone who specializes in what you need. It carries the least risk and you are assured that your orthodontist is well versed in all the new treatments, as well as the older ones that might be a good fit for you.

While the choice of a treatment provider always belongs to the patient, we want to remind you that when dealing with an orthodontic issue, an orthodontist is the best choice. We have the experience and training to deal with whatever issue might arise. We focus on long-term care plans that are individualized for each patient based on their problem, issue, and budget. These plans ensure you finish the process with the healthiest smile possible.

Meeting your orthodontic needs with Shaw Orthodontics

At Shaw Orthodontics, we emphasize optimal treatment approaches and how to avoid complications that can save you time and money. We’re trained to search out the small issues a general dentist may not see and deal with it before it causes you pain or complication.

To see this kind of expert, individualized care in action, come visit us in our conveniently located Rockwall office. Our responsive team would love to talk with you about all the ways a knowledgeable orthodontist can positively influence your smile. Investing in orthodontic treatment with Shaw Orthodontics results in a happy, healthy smile!