The Differences Between Orthodontists and Dentists

One of the most common questions the Ponte Vedra Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics team hears from parents and kids alike is “What are the differences between orthodontists and dentists?” It’s completely understandable that these two types of dental care providers get mixed up from time to time. But, the differences are probably a lot clearer and easier to understand than you think! Read on to learn how dentists and orthodontists are alike and different.

How are Dentists and Orthodontists Different?

The easiest way to explain how dentists and orthodontists are different is to first tell you what they have in common. Both dentists and orthodontists are dentists, but an orthodontist continues on with their education after completing dental school.

An orthodontist completes at least two years of additional specialized training. While they have the same general dentistry education as a general practice dentist, an orthodontist only focuses on their area of specialty.

Beyond the shared education, nearly everything about dentists and orthodontists is quite different. The best way to explain is by highlighting what each type of provider does.

What do Orthodontists Do?

Orthodontists are specialists in teeth alignment. If your child has any of the following issues, an orthodontist can help.

  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • Open bite
  • Crossbite
  • Overcrowded teeth
  • Crooked teeth
  • Gaps between teeth

Many people think that orthodontists only handle dental braces, but these are just one aspect of orthodontic care. For example, pediatric orthodontists may treat children years before they need braces, providing pre-orthodontic treatment to encourage healthy jaw bone development. This, in turn, allows teeth to erupt in the proper places and minimizes crowding.

Pre-orthodontic treatment can potentially prevent braces later — or, if your child does need braces, pre-orthodontic treatment may greatly reduce the total time they need to wear them.

Ultimately, an orthodontist is the go-to provider for any aspect of oral health involving teeth alignment and jaw development. They can diagnose, treat, and prevent problems starting from an early age.

What do Dentists Do?

Dentists are general oral health specialists who help your child to achieve and maintain good oral health. This includes regular check-ups (every six months is recommended) and teeth cleanings as well as treatments for tooth decay (cavities), gum disease, and other oral health issues.

A pediatric dentist helps your child grow into good dental habits, including proper brushing and flossing habits at home. If your child has any type of dental emergency, for example a knocked-out tooth or broken tooth, the pediatric dentist is there to help.

Dentists also offer preventive health care to their young patients. Many children benefit from preventive treatments like fluoride treatments or teeth sealants.

Dentists and Orthodontists: A Great Team

To make sure your child enjoys the best oral health and function as they grow up, it’s a good idea to have both a dentist and an orthodontist on your side. If the dentist observes signs of teeth alignment issues like crowded teeth, they refer your child to an orthodontist who specializes in that area.

And, if the orthodontist notices problems like gum disease or tooth decay while doing an orthodontic exam or preparing for orthodontic treatment, they send your child to the dentist for a teeth cleaning and oral health check-up. Or, if your child needs childhood tooth extraction to prepare for orthodontic treatment like braces, the orthodontist refers your child to the dentist.

Because both types of providers are important to your child’s health and wellness in the long term, Ponte Vedra Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics has both dentists and orthodontists on their team of experienced providers.

Get the Best for Your Family

To get the best in childhood dental care, from check-ups to braces and beyond, contact Ponte Vedra Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics to request an appointment.