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Orthodontist vs Dentist: What's the Difference? Who Should You Go To?

Orthodontist vs Dentist: What's the Difference? Who Should You Go To?

Is there a difference between an orthodontist vs dentist? Oral hygiene is just as important to maintain as everything else when you’re working to maintain a holistic health, which is why it is highly recommended to regularly see a dentist every six months. Going to the dentist regularly means you are less likely to have to deal with serious dental health issues. If necessary, your doctor will be able to provide you a simpler treatment, costing comparatively less than more complicated treatments.

In looking up dental hygiene or where to go for a dental appointment, you might have come across the term ‘orthodontist’. And if so, you might have thought, “Orthodontist vs dentist — what’s the difference?” If you have, then wonder no more. We’re going to answer all the burning questions you’ve had about the subject.

Orthodontist vs Dentist: Who Should You Visit?

Let’s take a closer look at what exactly orthodontists and dentists do.

What Does a Dentist Do?

In the practice of dental medicine, there are five different kinds of dental professionals to keep in mind. These professionals are a dentist, dental hygienist, dental therapist, dental assistant, and dental technician. So where does the orthodontist vs dentist fall under?

What we will be focusing on is the dentist.

By definition, a dentist is a trained professional caring for the health of your teeth, gums, and general mouth area. Therefore, they are responsible for diagnosing and treating any problems in those areas. It is a dentist’s job to promote general oral hygiene to all of their patients.

In terms of their background, like any doctor, there is specific training each dentist undergoes for their education. Once in dental school, they are required to complete two years of biomedical science studies and two years of clinical practice. Once these four years are completed, they earn their doctor of dental surgery (DDS) or doctor of dental medicine (DDM) degree, and then proceed to take a series of written and practical exams for the license to practice dentistry.

More often in the Philippines, dental students take 2 years of Predentistry (more of GE/General Education subjects) then 4 years of dentistry proper for a total of 6 years to get a degree of DDM (Doctor of Dental Medicine).

What Is an Orthodontist?

A dentist can specialize in a number of fields. To name a few, there is

  • Special care dentistry, which is a field in dentistry that specializes in treating and preventing oral diseases in people. They are those who are not normally able to seek dental care due to some mental or physical ailment
  • Oral surgery, which specializes in providing treatment specifically with surgery
  • Orthodontics

Before we go any further, the one thing you should keep in mind is this: every orthodontist is a dentist but not every dentist is an orthodontist. Let’s explore the discussion on orthodontist vs dentist.

An orthodontist is a dentist specially trained to diagnose, treat, or prevent irregularities in the teeth and jaw. Basically, the intended end result of every orthodontist’s job is to improve their patient’s bite. The irregularities that could be affecting a patient’s bite include cases such as crooked teeth, gapped or overcrowded teeth, over or underbite problems, and jaw misalignments.

Differences in Services: Orthodontist vs Dentist

An orthodontist vs a dentist’s service differ, but some do overlap.

In the case of a dentist, they are largely responsible for offering maintenance services, providing community dental care in the home, school, or hospital, and providing dental public health, which means promoting good oral hygiene to the community.

Their procedures include taking out any plaque or tartar buildup, which could cause tooth decay and gum diseases, and addressing any immediate pain or discomfort patients might have in their teeth and gums.

In the case of an orthodontist, they are certainly qualified to address the problems a dentist oversees, but they are also qualified to offer services such as braces or any other dental appliance applications, and surgery.

They also authorize other services such as dental x-rays, panoramic x-rays of the face and head, an oral exam, and impressions to create molds of their patient’s teeth. In some cases, an orthodontist may even offer medical advice on how to prevent sleep apnea, a common but serious sleeping disorder, by providing oral devices that can shift and support the jaw to prevent a blocked airway.

Basically, dentists are general practitioners while orthodontists are dentists who specialize in the field of Orthodontics.

Key Takeaway

What’s the difference: orthodontist vs dentist? Being educated on the fine differences in scope and roles of dental doctors will only be beneficial to your health. Knowing whether you need a dentist or an orthodontist will allow you to make more informed choices and also a better smile and bite.

Learn more about Other Oral Issues here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Dental Professionals, https://www.dentalhealth.org/dental-professionals, Accessed March 15, 2021

What Is an Orthodontist? https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-an-orthodontist, Accessed March 15, 2021

What Is a Dentist? https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-a-dentist, Accessed March 15, 2021

Sleep Apnea and Snoring, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/s/sleep-apnea-and-snoring?utm_source=mouthhealthyorg&utm_medium=mhtopstories&utm_content=sleep-apnea, Accessed March 15, 2021

Your Top 9 Questions About Going To the Dentist — Answered! https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/questions-about-going-to-the-dentist, Accessed March 15, 2021

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Written by Veronika Caraos Updated Nov 05, 2021
Medically reviewed by Grazielle Millo-Paderes, DDM, MSc