Based on the conversations I’ve had in my practices, I’m convinced that California is home to the country’s most savvy orthodontics patients. In the past few months, several of them have asked me about the differences between having orthodontic procedures done at their dentist’s office or with me, an orthodontic specialist.

It’s a good question and actually a fairly common one. In fact, last year I covered elements of the topic in another blog post. This time, however, I will focus more on what makes a specialist the better choice for orthodontic treatments.

Generalizing vs. Specializing

The basic difference between a dentist and an orthodontist is the level of specialization. All orthodontists start out as dentists and those that seek additional training to specialize in one area of oral care become orthos.

I went to 4 years of college and 4 years of dental school. At this point, I was fully trained and certified to be a dentist. I decided that I wanted to specialize in orthodontics so I went back to school. This required 2 years of full time schooling focusing just on orthodontics. Today, this has increased to 3 years of school.

A dentist is licensed to work in many specialized fields:

  • Orthodontics

    • Treatments to correct bite and placement of teeth

  • Endodontics

    • Root canals

  • Periodontics

    • Treating gum disease

  • Oral Surgery

    • Tooth extractions

  • Pediatric Dentistry

    • Children’s developing oral health, including baby teeth

While a dentist can do all these things, each one can also be performed by specialists that have received 2-5 years of additional training after dental school. The specialists will know about the intricacies of your situation in far more detail than a general dentist will.

It’s like the difference between going to your primary care physician for a checkup and being referred to a dermatologist for a skin condition.

In most situations, but especially medical ones, specialists are your best bet for quality care.

Myths about Orthodontic Specialists

Specialists Are More Expensive.

Specialists are actually cheaper more often than not. For example, I’ve had many patients tell me what their dentist was going to charge for Invisalign and been shocked by the pricetag.

I do Invisalign every day, and therefore, I receive a bulk discount for materials. I pass that savings to you. A dentist might offer Invisalign, but if he or she only does 10 cases a year, the procedure and materials will need to be more expensive to cover the costs and make them a profit.

In many cases, insurance will discount treatments conducted by an orthodontist more than they will a general dentist. (Although these details can vary, so check your plan!) But if this is true for you, then it means less money out of your pocket for the same treatment.

You’re Going to Get the Same Treatment with a Dentist or an Orthodontist.

If you think about it, your treatment from an orthodontic specialist is going to be very different.

I have had years of experience with these technologies, procedures, and patient situations. I know how to prepare your treatment plan in the most cost effective and efficient way possible. As well, I know the tricks and tips for minimizing pain.

Dentists are as Familiar With a Treatment as an Orthodontists Is.

One patient came in recently needing to get Invisalign again. She paid for it and went through the full treatment with her dentist; but her smile was not completely fixed. Her teeth were straight but her bite was still off. She was in a lot of pain because of that.

Unfortunately for the time she had wasted, and for her pocketbook, I could have fixed the bite and the crookedness the first time around. And guess what else? She is paying less with me than she did the first time.

Safety Isn’t a Major Concern Since They are Both Doctors.

While it’s true that dentists and orthodontists are both trained doctors, recent news has brought to light the importance of specific and continuing education. Weekend courses and workshops for dentists on how to sedate patients or do orthodontic work are inadequate when it comes to real world situations and emergencies.

Make sure you know the credentials of the individual to whom you are trusting your care!

I am sure by now, you are convinced that an orthodontic specialist will take care of your smile like no one else! And I hope you afford me the opportunity to show you this firsthand.

For a beautiful smile!

Dr. Galante

of Cater Galante Orthodontic Specialists