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How is a Dentist Different from an Orthodontist?

Nicks J Mar 6, 2020
A general dentist is involved in treating issues associated with dental hygiene, whereas an orthodontist fixes problems related to misalignment of teeth. Given here is a general comparison between a dentist and an orthodontist.

Did You Know?

In the United States, clearing the Dental Admission Test (DAT), is one of the prerequisites to get an admission in a dental school.
Although a dentist and an orthodontist deal with oral care, it does not mean that both the professions of medicine are the same. While both practice the medical science of dentistry and focus on teeth and gums, there is a significant difference in their role and the patients that they can treat.
Often, an orthodontist works in tandem with a dentist in order to provide the best possible treatment so as to achieve optimum results. However, the fact remains that orthodontics is altogether a different field within dentistry.

General Dentist Vs. Orthodontist

Job Description

General Dentist: A general dentist deals with all the facets of dental care and the treatment focuses on maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Of course, the dentist may advice the patient to consult a specialist that is beyond the scope of general dentistry.
Orthodontist: Orthodontics is a specialty branch of dentistry and the doctor deals with the treatment of malocclusions (incorrect bites).


General Dentist: Having a doctor of dental surgery (D.D.S.) or a doctor of dental medicine (D.M.D.) degree is necessary to practice as a general dentist.
Orthodontist: On the other hand, an orthodontist also has to earn a D.D.S. or a D.M.D. degree but additionally, he has to undergo a 2-3 year Orthodontic Residency Masters program, which should be sanctioned by the American Dental Association.
In short, he must have the authentic American Board of Orthodontics Doctor certification to practice orthodontics. No wonder, you will notice a D.D.S., M.S., or a D.M.D., M.S., imprinted with their name. He is also a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO).

Duration of Higher Education

General Dentist: In order to become a general dentist, the duration of educational training after high school is usually 8 years that includes a bachelor's degree plus 4 years of dental school.
Orthodontist: In order to become a board-certified orthodontist, the length of educational training is usually 10 to 11 years, including 4 years in an undergraduate program, 4 years in dental school, and 2-3 years in a postgraduate orthodontics program.


General Dentist: General dentistry deals with issues associated with poor oral hygiene.
So patients affected with gum problems (such as periodontitis and gingivitis), tooth discoloration, broken teeth, and cavities, are likely to visit a general dentist. Accordingly, the dentist may recommend treatment options such as tooth extraction, use of fillings, tooth whitening, crowns, and bridges to restore damaged teeth.
Root canal procedure for infected tooth and fixing veneers to improve the appearance of teeth also fall under the purview of general dentistry.
Orthodontist: He has the skill and expertise to treat issues related to misaligned teeth and jaw. Bad bites including under bite, overbite and cross bite due to crooked or crowded teeth are diagnosed and treated effectively only by an orthodontist. In order to correct bite alignment, the dentist may advice patients to wear braces, wires, and even retainers.
It is observed that general dentists after doing the 'so-called' short-term orthodontic courses start practicing orthodontics. Seeking consultation of such practitioners should be avoided as they lack the necessary training and experience.
Treatment from such dentists will only increase the risk of complications. So in case you require orthodontic services, make sure you consult a qualified board-certified orthodontist only.