Dentist vs. Orthodontist: What’s the Difference?


Achieving the perfect smile starts with making sure that you are in the right hands. The dental practitioner you choose will have a significant impact on your oral and dental health for a long time to come.

Some people may be confused about whether they need a dentist or an orthodontist. Here are some of the major differences between the two.


Education and Training

Education and Training

A dentist is a healthcare professional who has successfully earned a dental degree by completing the curriculum requirements provided for by the state or country where he or she plans to practice.

An orthodontist, on the other hand, is a dentist who has completed further hours of specialized training in the field of orthodontics. These hours are independent of the number of years necessary to complete a degree in general dentistry.

The length of additional training depends on the state or country where the orthodontist will practice. Some examples of this are listed below:

  • In Australia, an orthodontist needs to complete 5,000 hours of specialized training in the field of orthodontics.
  • In the United States, an orthodontist needs to spend 2 to 3 years more in advanced orthodontic training. The exact length depends on the specific state where the orthodontist will be practicing.
  • In the United Kingdom, an orthodontist has to complete a 3-year post-graduate course at Masters or Doctorate level. However, before a dentist can start with his orthodontic training, he must first gain experience in pediatric dentistry, restorative dentistry, and maxillofacial surgery.

Remember that in many countries, general dentists are allowed to offer orthodontic services without going through the all these additional training. Because orthodontists receive specialized training and education to be qualified to provide orthodontic services, it is still advisable to turn to them when you are experiencing an orthodontic problem.


Although dentists and orthodontists have a lot of similarities, the most crucial factor that sets them apart is specialization. Dentists are comparable to general practitioners or family doctors because they provide general services and perform routine dental procedures.

In contrast, orthodontics is a specialized field of dentistry that is centered on the development of the teeth, jaw, and face. Orthodontists are experts when it comes to facial and dental growth, biomechanics, and biology. They work to achieve optimal results when it comes to combining aesthetics and practical function for their patients’ dental health.

If you live in the area, you can consult with a La Mesa dentist if you are experiencing any dental or oral problems. If the dentist notices an issue with your teeth or jaw alignment, he or she will refer you to an orthodontist who is qualified to diagnose and treat the problem.

The orthodontist will then ensure that you receive the correct treatment and obtain the best possible outcome for your problem. However, remember that you do not require a referral from a dentist to get treated by an orthodontist. You can just directly consult with an orthodontist if you feel that your issue is covered by his or her specialization.

Membership in Professional Organizations

Dentist vs Orthodontis

Both dentists and orthodontists are members of professional organizations for registered and licensed dentists in their country or state. These organizations are committed to ensuring the highest quality of service for patients by designing and implementing standards of care and ethical regulations that their members are required to observe.

Orthodontists, however, are also members of specialist organizations that cater exclusively to registered and licensed orthodontists. These organizations can help you locate a local orthodontist and verify their credentials and experience. They also serve as a disciplinary board where patients can bring in complaints against any of their members.

When in doubt, do not hesitate to ask if your orthodontist is a registered specialist with an orthodontic organization.


Although dentists and orthodontists both deal with the dental and oral health of a patient, they focus on different health issues.

Dentists perform general dental procedures, including the following:

  • Routine checkups
  • Diagnose and treat problems and diseases that affect your teeth and gums
  • Tooth extraction and filling cavities
  • Professional cleaning

An orthodontist is the only specialist qualified to perform the following tasks:

  • Diagnose dental and facial irregularities
  • Prescribe and apply measures to prevent the occurrence of dental and facial irregularities
  • Correct and treat misalignments in your teeth, jaws, and bite
  • Assess and monitor teeth movement

In the same way that you would go to cardiologist when you need a heart surgery, you need to go to an orthodontist if you want to receive treatment for any irregularities or misalignments in your teeth, jaw, and bite.

When to Visit

Dentist vs Orthodontis

If you are looking for a dentist or orthodontist, there are many sites like the which recommend local practitioners that you can consult. Knowing when to visit either one depends on what issue you are experiencing or what service you want to avail.

If you don’t have a family dentist yet, there is no better time to start looking for one than right now. Remember that experts recommend visiting your dentist for routine checkups at least once a year. A dentist will help you with the following concerns:

  • You want to improve your overall oral and dental health
  • You are looking for general dental care and maintenance services
  • There is something wrong with your teeth, gums, or mouth but you are not sure if it is an orthodontic issue

On the other hand, you need to schedule an appointment with an orthodontist for the following scenarios:

  • You want to get your crooked teeth straightened
  • You want to reduce or eliminate gaps between your teeth
  • You want to correct misaligned teeth or jaw
  • You want to resolve bite problems that cause you pain or clicking when you chew

If you are still unsure about which one can help you out with your problem, it is always a good idea to visit your family dentist first so that he or she can determine whether you are suffering from a problem that requires the specialized training and skills of an orthodontist.


Dentists and orthodontists are similar in the fact that they both work to help improve your overall dental and oral health. However, they work on different problems and issues. Dentists are more concerned with general oral and dental health issues while orthodontists focus on specialized issues, such as correcting teeth alignment or improving bite patterns.

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