Often you might have come across these terms when talking about dentists and dental health. But have you ever thought how a dentist is different from an Orthodontist? Dentistry is, in fact, a broad medical term that involves the teeth, the jaw, the gums and the nerves in the mouth. Orthodontics is a specialization within dentistry focusing more on the correction of bites, straightness, and gaps in between your teeth.
The difference is in the specializations. While a dentist is specialized more into the care and upkeep of the teeth, jaw, gums and the nerves of the mouth, Orthodontists are more into the structural aspects of your teeth. In this article, we will help you understand how a dentist is different from an Orthodontist in terms of their work and area of expertise.
Let’s find out more about the distinguishing factors between an Orthodontist and a Dentist.
Differences in Training
The initial training to become a specialist in dentistry is the same for all students wanting to be a part of the dental medical world. That means someone interested in becoming a dentist, first has to complete a four years undergraduate course to become a dentist. After the completion of the course, they will have to pass a written exam and an exam to obtain the license. Only after the completion of the course and once the license is obtained is when a dentist qualifies to start practice. Once you are qualified you are called a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine). So that’s about a Dentist.
However, orthodontics is a step ahead of a general dentist. A general dentist can opt for a specialization course such as Orthodontics which requires further training. Around 6 percent of dentists worldwide are orthodontists. Orthodontic training is beyond general dental science and is about more focus on specific issues and problems of the patients which are beyond the scope of general dentistry. The additional training involves a few years of residency and more than 4,800 hours of specialized orthodontic training.
Now let’s have a look at what the Dentists and Orthodontists do and their areas of expertise.
Dentists and their Areas of Expertise
So what does your dentist do? Basically, your dentist takes care of your overall dental health. They are your go-to people for any basic dental problems such as cavities, mild gum issues, regular checkups, and other oral hygiene issues. And if there are teeth that cannot be saved, they help in the extraction of such teeth as well. Dentists also help in the improvement of the functioning and appearance of your teeth. They are responsible for fixing the crowns, to your teeth or helping restore your teeth that are severely decayed.
It is the dentist who conducts a regular check-up of your mouth for detecting signs of any oral diseases and maintaining impeccable oral health for you. And if your dentist spots any problem they are not able to handle they rightly refer you to dental specialists or an expert physician qualified enough to treat any such conditions.
The Work Area of Orthodontists
Orthodontists, on the other hand, are specialists who deal with the structural aspects of your teeth. This implies they are more into taking care of your teeth misalignments and your jaw structures. That is the reason you will often see the orthodontists treating conditions such as open bites, crowded teeth, teeth sticking out and misaligned jaws.
Orthodontists are equipped with many tools to ensure they move the teeth and jaws into perfect alignment. They make use of many appliances to get your teeth in place and looking beautiful. These appliances include braces, clear aligners, among other things. Since alignment issues can be different for different patients, an orthodontist would make use of X-rays and photos of the teeth to create personalized treatment plans.
How to know whom to Visit?
In many cases, you would find that the orthodontists are also providing services that a dentist provides. That’s because an orthodontist is also trained as a dentist and is well versed in general dental issues. Some dentists are also permitted to offer some treatments that need orthodontic specialization however in most cases if there is an issue with the structure of your teeth, you will need to visit an orthodontist.
So, how do you know whom to call? For general toothaches and cavities, you might have to see a dentist for initial diagnosis and treatment. Your dentist will examine your teeth and if he is qualified to treat your problem they will start with your treatment plan. If however the issue diagnosed falls out of their expertise, they will refer you to a specialist who can be an orthodontist as well.
You will have to see an orthodontist only in case of a structural issue and for the duration of the time, you are getting treated for that condition. However, you might have to keep visiting your dentist for a lifetime. For it is the dentist, who is your first line of defense and protection of your teeth. It is the dentist who will recommend care and prevention advice to you and it is the dentist who will treat all your gum relation infections and other periodontal diseases. It is your dentist who conducts that notorious root canal surgery. So, you better love your dentist and your orthodontist alike!!
While the words dentist’ and orthodontist’ are often used interchangeably, as we saw they are quite different in terms of their work and expertise. While you may visit an orthodontist for basic dental care, they are specialists who deal only with structural issues with your teeth like bites and misalignments.
So next time when you visit a dental care center for a routine check-up, he would probably be a general dentist expert in your basic oral health care and hygiene. If however you get detected with a condition that needs alignment of teeth, you might be visiting an orthodontist.
Either way, stay assured your smile and your teeth are in safe hands!