Differences Between a Family Dentist Versus an Orthodontist

When it comes to dental care, there are a variety of specialists that can help you maintain your oral health. Two common types of dental professionals are dentists and orthodontists. While both focus on maintaining healthy teeth and gums, they have different areas of expertise and provide additional services. Here are the main differences between a family dentist and an orthodontist:

Scope of Practice

Dentists have a broad scope of practice and are trained to treat all aspects of oral health, including teeth, gums, and jaw. They can perform routine check-ups, cleanings, fillings, root canals, and extractions. They also educate patients on how to maintain proper oral hygiene.

Orthodontists specialize in the alignment and movement of teeth and jaws. They are experts in correcting misaligned teeth, overcrowded teeth, gaps between teeth, overbites, underbites, and crossbites. Orthodontists also use braces, retainers, and other appliances to straighten teeth.

Education and Training

Dentists are required to complete a general degree in dentistry, typically a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD). These programs usually take several years to complete. After graduation, dentists must pass the National Board of Dental Examinations and obtain a state license to practice.

Orthodontists require additional education and training to specialize in orthodontics. After completing a DDS or DMD degree, they must complete another 2–3 years of specialized training in an accredited orthodontic residency program. This includes coursework and clinical experience in diagnosing and treating various dental irregularities. 

During their residency, orthodontists learn to use different treatment methods, such as braces, aligners, and retainers, to correct misaligned teeth, crowded teeth, and other bite irregularities. They also gain experience in treating patients with craniofacial abnormalities or congenital disabilities.

Equipment Used

Dentists use a variety of equipment to diagnose and treat dental irregularities. A family dentist uses a dental drill to remove decay and prepare the tooth for fillings. An X-ray machine is one of the most common tools used in orthodontics. X-rays provide detailed images of the teeth and jaw, allowing dentists to diagnose misalignment, crowding, and spacing properly. 

Dentists and orthodontists can both use specialized instruments such as probes, mirrors, and pliers to examine patients' teeth and gums. These tools can help them identify such problems as cavities, infections, or gum disease. 

Ongoing Care

While orthodontists can perform some general dental procedures, their primary focus is on orthodontic treatments. Patients seeing an orthodontist still need regular visits to a family dentist for cleaning, cavity checks, and oral health management. 

A dentist offers ongoing care to enhance oral health and prevent any potential issues. They may also work closely with an orthodontist to tailor treatments to each patient's needs. Patients should continue regular dental visits and follow the recommendations of both their orthodontist and dentist for optimal oral health.

Choose a Trusted Family Dentist for Your Smile

The main difference between a dentist and an orthodontist is the focus of their practice. Orthodontists specialize in correcting misaligned teeth, while dentists provide general dental care for patients of all ages. Dental care requires a team effort between professionals and patients to achieve and maintain a healthy smile. Take care of your smile by scheduling appointments with your family dentist and orthodontist today. 

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