The Difference Between an Orthodontist & Dentist

Wondering about the difference between an orthodontist and a general dentist? Our Hawkesbury dentists explain.

What is an Orthodontist?

Orthodontists specialize in dental development and facial growth, including the alignment of the jaw and teeth. An orthodontist's most important task is to identify issues with your mouth and teeth. 

They are qualified to provide treatments for both moderate and complex orthodontic cases. Orthodontic treatment options may include traditional metal braces, retainers, or clear aligners.

In extreme cases, patients may need a palate expander to widen the arch of the upper jaw and give the area more space. Patients with severely misaligned teeth may need to use headgear to pull front teeth back.

Qualifications & Training

The Canadian Dental Association recognizes nine dental specialties, including orthodontics. To become a dentist, one must graduate from dental school. General dentists are graduates who go on to practice dentistry after school without any specialized training. 

Orthodontists will take more training after graduating from dental school. They will complete an accredited advanced education program in orthodontics, then attain a specialty designation from the provincial dental regulatory authority in their province.

What are the differences in practice between orthodontics & dentistry?

While your general dentist cares for your routine dental health care needs, your orthodontist attends to all of your specific orthodontic needs. While dentists can provide orthodontic treatment for misalignments classified as mild or moderate, they will typically refer severe or complex cases to an orthodontist. 

You’ll go to your dentist for regular dental cleanings and examinations, in addition to restorations and treatments such as dental crowns, bridges, fillings, root canals, and more.

Most orthodontists will not provide this routine or restorative care and focus primarily on helping to straighten their patients’ teeth and improving jaw alignment. 

Why should I get orthodontic treatment?

While orthodontics can help improve the look of your smile, there can also be many benefits for your oral health.

A bad bite can make speaking and chewing challenging and cause uneven wear on your teeth. Teeth that are crowded, misaligned or overlapped may be difficult to clean, resulting in gum disease, tooth decay, and potentially even loss of teeth.

Orthodontic issues may also have consequences for your overall physical health, such as headaches or earaches. 

Early orthodontic treatment can help correct developing issues with children and teens but more and more adults are choosing to pursue orthodontic treatment later in life to straighten their smiles. This is largely due to new orthodontic technologies like Invisalign that can more easily fit into an adult's lifestyle. 

Are you considering orthodontic treatment? Contact our Hawkesbury dentists today to book a consultation. 

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