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What is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?

Dentists and orthodontists in Canada are doctors who specialize in oral health care. Doctors who study general dentistry are trained to diagnose and treat diseases of the gums, teeth, tongue, and mouth.

Orthodontists also receive this training, but to specialize in diagnosing and treating misalignment of your teeth and jaws, they receive additional training.

This article will explain more about the difference between orthodontists and dentists so that you can decide which type of doctor you should see.

What does a dentist do?

Dentists are oral health doctors. Typically, dentists go to college for a pre-dental or pre-med course before pursuing graduate dental school.

Like all doctors, dentists are required to undergo extensive training in their practice before becoming certified. About 80% of dentists practice what is known as general dentistry.

Licensed dentists can diagnose and treat your oral health conditions, gums, and tongue. They can also clean your teeth, but dental hygienists usually take care of that.

Dentists provide the following care:

  • Performing and interpreting dental X-rays
  • Filling tooth cavities
  • pull tooth
  • Repair of cracked teeth
  • Treatment of gum diseases such as gingivitis
  • Prescribing oral hygiene medications
  • teeth whitening
  • Installing veneers and crowns on teeth
  • Monitoring the growth of children’s teeth
  • Perform oral surgery

What does an orthodontist do?

Orthodontists are also oral health practitioners. Technically, they are a type of dentist specializing in tooth and jaw alignment.

Licensed orthodontists are trained to teach and treat oral health conditions and your gums. But mostly, orthodontists emphasize that your teeth and jaw are properly adjusted.

Orthodontists do the following:

  • Monitoring facial growth (jawline and bite) in children
  • They diagnose and treat misaligned teeth and jaws (malocclusion).
  • They create a treatment plan that includes braces and retainers.
  • They perform surgery and teeth straightening.
  • They install dental devices such as braces, plaques, palate expanders, etc.

Qualification and training of an orthodontist versus a dentist

Dentists and orthodontists have much the same training. Orthodontists are required to obtain additional training certification before operating.

Typically, dentists go to college for a pre-dental or pre-med course before pursuing graduate dental school.

Like all doctors, dentists are required to undergo extensive training in their practice, completing their experience before they can become certified. Certification requires passing a comprehensive exam.

After completing dental school, dentists must take and pass the national dental exam to become licensed practitioners.

Orthodontists also usually follow a pre-dental or pre-medical course at the undergraduate level before entering dental school.

After completing dental school and participating in the certification exam, orthodontic specialists participate in an orthodontic residency course for 2 to 3 years to receive a specialized certificate in orthodontics.

Should you see an orthodontist or a dentist?

Think of your dentist as a general practitioner and your orthodontist as a specialist. Most of the standard dental problems can be solved by visiting the dentist.

Toothache, tooth decay, tooth restoration, and tooth extraction can all be diagnosed and treated by your dentist. They can also treat gum disease, stomatitis, and oral infections.

There may be cases where your dentist will refer you to an orthodontist. Jaw malocclusion, misalignment, and crowding of teeth and palate expander may require an orthodontist.

It is also recommended that all children be evaluated by an orthodontist before age 7 to see if they need braces. If you’re an adult and suspect you have a crooked jawline or teeth that need straightening, you may want to consider skipping the dentist and going straight to an orthodontist.


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