An orthodontist is a dentist, but a general dentist is rarely an orthodontist.
Both orthodontists and general dentists complete four years of dental school, after their bachelor’s degrees, and both are doctors of dentistry (with a DDS or its equivalent DMD degree). All dentists with this degree can be licensed to practice general dentistry. However, to practice with the title of orthodontist, a dentist must complete two or three years of further training specifically geared to correcting alignment problems – primarily malocclusion, or “bad bite.”
Only a dentist with this orthodontic training can be licensed to practice as an orthodontist.
Your primary dental care most often is provided by a general dentist. He or she manages the overall health of your teeth and gums, checking for problems and performing basic services such as cleanings, fillings, root canals, bridges and crowns. If you have dental problems beyond the scope of your dentist’s practice, you will be referred to a specialist.
In the case of such issues as malocclusion, poor dental alignment, inability to close the lips, protruding teeth, facial imbalance or difficulty chewing or biting, for instance, your dentist will suggest you see an orthodontist.
What do orthodontists do? Primarily, they straighten your crooked teeth and correct problems with your bite. Orthodontists also treat temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) or other problems with your jaw joint and perform cosmetic dentistry.
The traditional method of straightening teeth has been metal braces, sometimes in conjunction with headgear. You may still get metal braces, but they have come a long way! Not only are modern metal braces smaller and more comfortable than the braces of even 20 years ago, but today you have several other options, including Invisalign or “invisible braces,” or “clear braces.”
Invisalign uses clear, plastic aligner trays to gradually and gently shift your teeth into proper position. These trays are almost invisible when you’re wearing them and are taken out when you eat or brush your teeth – allowing you to keep your mouth healthy while you’re undergoing treatment.
Our office is a Super Elite Invisalign Provider, which places us in the top 1 percent of Invisalign providers in North America. We treat most of our adult patients, and many of our teens, with Invisalign.
Orthodontists and general dentists handle different oral health issues, but both are essential in maintaining your family’s optimum dental health.