The Difference Between Dentists & Orthodontists

The Difference Between Dentists & Orthodontists
Posted on 01/30/2019

Not unlike medical care, dental care has a number of areas and potential issues that may require addressing, so it should come as no surprise that a variety of types of doctors of dentistry are needed to specialize in the different areas of oral healthcare. The two most commons types of dental care sought are general dentistry and orthodontics. However, it can sometimes be confusing to determine which doctor you need to see ― a dentist or an orthodontist?


If you’re struggling to decide which doctor to see, understanding what each doctor specializes in may help make your decision a little clearer, and your Charleston dentist at Smith Family Dentistry is here to help with that!


The Dentist

Dentists are doctors of dentistry ― the medical field that focuses on the mouth, teeth, gums, and jaw. Dentists study to treat a wide range of oral health issues, from cavities to gum disease in all its forms. Besides treating issues when they are diagnosed, dentists also focus on preventative dental care, such as teeth cleanings and X-rays, in order to ensure proper oral development and good health. It’s recommended that patients see their dentist every six months for regular checkups, as this can help diagnose and treat issues before they grow into a bigger problem, or hopefully prevent problems from arising altogether.


Sometimes a dental issue may be out of the scope of a general dentist, however, so they may refer you to see another type of dentist ― an orthodontist.


The Orthodontist

An orthodontist is a dentist trained to work in a smaller, more specialized area of dentistry. This training requires an additional two to three years of schooling specific to orthodontics. Most commonly orthodontists focus on the straightening of teeth, however they also diagnose and correct a variety of malocclusions, or “bad bites,” such as overbites and underbites. This means that not only do orthodontists work with teeth, but their jobs also often involve the jaw, too.


While often thought of as just dealing in aesthetics, malocclusions can actually have a deeper impact than simply appearing unattractive. Crooked teeth and bad bites can lead to bone wear, problems chewing, headaches, and crooked teeth can make proper hygiene more challenging, which causes cavities and gum disease.


An orthodontist will evaluate your teeth alignment and bite, and can help make a determination as to which course of treatment is best for you. While braces are the most common form of orthodontic treatment, occasionally, more intense treatments, including jaw surgery, may be recommended by your orthodontist.


Working Together for Healthier Smiles

Though dentists and orthodontists have slightly differing areas of focus, the main goal of both doctors is to promote and maintain good oral health in each of their patients. There is certainly overlap in their duties ― for instance, both dentists and orthodontists both work with teeth and undergo many years of schooling and specialized training to become certified, however each doctor must limit practice of dentistry to their area of study. This means you would not see an orthodontist to have a cavity filled, and you wouldn’t see your dentist for braces.


As with most potential health issues, the earlier you can catch a problem, the quicker and more effective treatment will typically be. This is why children should begin seeing their dentist by the age of one, and children should have their first visit to the orthodontist by age seven.


Talk to Your Dentist in Charleston, WV Today

If you have any further questions about dental and orthodontic treatment, or which may be right for you, your trusted Charleston dentist at Smith Family Dentistry can help. Please contact us today to learn more about our available dental treatments, or if you’re concerned you have an oral health issue needing addressed, schedule your appointment now. At Smith Family Dentistry, we strive to bring you the highest quality dental healthcare, with advanced treatment technology and a friendly, experienced staff. Let us be your go-to dentist in Charleston, WV. We look forward to hearing from you soon!