Orthodontist vs. Dentist: What is the difference?

Orthodontists and dentists both work to keep your teeth healthy and beautiful. If you aren’t familiar with them, though, it can be confusing to know the difference between the two and who you should see for certain types of treatments. Your oral health plays a significant role in your overall health, and that’s why you need to know the different dental services they provide so you can find the help you need when you need it.

Learn more about the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist, and find out how Rappahannock Orthodontics can provide you with the top orthodontic treatments in Fredericksburg and Stafford, VA.

What does a dentist do?

Dentistry is a branch of medicine that focuses on preventing and treating conditions in your teeth and gums. Dentists are general practitioners who work to prevent, diagnose, and treat cavities and oral diseases and perform routine cleanings to maintain your oral health.

Some common services dentists provide include:

  • Routine cleanings
  • Cavity filling
  • Tooth extraction
  • Root canals
  • Veneers
  • Crowns

These dental treatments are essential for maintaining a healthy mouth and, in some cases, resolving serious issues that could impact your overall health.

What does an orthodontist do?

While dentistry is considered a more general practice, orthodontics is a specialized field within dentistry that focuses on straightening your teeth and correcting alignment issues. While not all dentists are considered orthodontists, all orthodontists are dentists that have completed additional years of education that certifies them to practice orthodontics as well.
Orthodontists use treatment methods such as clear aligners, like Invisalign®, and various types of braces to address a wide range of orthodontic conditions, including, but not limited to:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Gapped teeth
  • Crowded teeth
  • Overbites
  • Underbites
  • Crossbites

While orthodontic treatment covers a variety of issues, there are a few things orthodontists don’t do including cleanings, oral surgery, tooth extractions, and dentures.

If you’re looking to straighten your smile, at Rappahannock Orthodontics, we proudly offer orthodontic treatment options for kids, teens, and adults to help you do exactly that.

Orthodontist vs. dentist education and training

While education and training are required for any medical professional, it’s especially important for specialized practitioners, like orthodontists, to hone additional skills in their specific area of practice.

Orthodontists and dentists complete the same four years of general dental education, but beyond that, orthodontists then pursue additional education with an in-depth focus on properly moving teeth and aligning jaws. Along with these extra courses, orthodontists must also complete a residency of two-to-three years and 5,000 hours of training.

Even once they’re certified and working in a practice, many high-performing orthodontists will join professional organizations that further advance their skills and expertise. Technology is always changing and progressing, so it’s more important than ever to our team at Rappahannock Orthodontics to stay on the cutting edge of best practices in the industry. Dr. Caspersen and Dr. Lowe are both members of the American Association of Orthodontists and the American Dental Association among several other prestigious organizations. Dr. Caspersen has even got his board-certification from the American Board of Orthodontics, an achievement only 25% of orthodontists reach in their careers.

Should I see a dentist or an orthodontist?

If you find yourself wondering whether you should see a dentist or an orthodontist, ask yourself what type of treatment you’re looking for.

For routine check-ups and cleanings, patients should make an appointment with their general dentist. Dentists can also treat oral pain, tooth decay, gum disease, cavities, and other oral conditions. It’s recommended to visit the dentist twice a year, or every six months, for cleanings to maintain oral health. During your check-up, your dentist may notice crooked teeth or bite alignment issues, and in that case, they should refer you to an orthodontist.

Orthodontists don’t require you to receive a referral from your dentist, though, to seek orthodontic treatment. If you notice your teeth are crooked, gapped, or misaligned, you can find a family orthodontist near you for a complimentary consultation exam. Orthodontists don’t perform cleanings, oral surgery, or pull teeth, however, so you should consult your dentist for their recommendation for these procedures.

Although it’s becoming more common for family dentists to offer orthodontic treatments, especially clear aligners, we always recommend seeing a certified orthodontist to ensure you receive the best possible care for your specific needs.

Find the right care for you at Rappahannock Orthodontics

Here at Rappahannock Orthodontics, our team is dedicated to providing high-quality orthodontic treatment you can trust. Whether you’re looking for braces or Invisalign clear aligners, or you aren’t quite sure which treatment is best for you, we’re here to help. Schedule a complimentary consultation to get started at one of our orthodontic offices in Fredericksburg or Stafford, VA.