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Dentist vs. Orthodontist: Making the Right Choice

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We often get asked what the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist is. In simple terms, a dentist and an orthodontist are both responsible for caring for your gum, tongue, mouth, and teeth, but their practices have clear differences.

Orthodontists and dentists essentially get the same education and training, except to become an orthodontist professionals need to get additional education to specialize in diagnosing and treating misalignments of your teeth and jaws.

If you want to understand the differences between the two in detail, then this article is for you. 

The Role of Your Dentist

General also known as family dentists are concerned with the overall oral health of an individual. They are specialists in treating decaying teeth (fillings) and in the removal of failed teeth (extractions). 

A dentist also provides services such as crowns, veneers, or bonding to extensively decay or broken teeth to enhance the appearance and function of teeth. So the main function of a dentist is to identify oral abnormalities and educate patients on how to prevent dental disease.

Dentists provide the following care:

  • Fill Cavities
  • Whiten Teeth
  • Extract Teeth
  • Fill And Bond Teeth
  • Repair Cracked Teeth
  • Perform Oral Surgery
  • Install Crowns Or Veneers
  • conduct and interpret dental X-rays
  • Treat Gum Disease, Such As Gingivitis
  • Promote Oral Health And Oral Hygiene
  • Oversee The Development Of Children’s Teeth
  • Prescribe Treatment, Including Prescription Drugs

The Role of Your Orthodontist

Orthodontists specialize in optimizing your bite and aligning your teeth, ensuring not only a pleasing smile but also comfortable and functional oral health. 

Straightening teeth and aligning bites are intricate biological processes that demand thorough attention, so it’s crucial not to compromise on quality care. Orthodontists are adept at crafting personalized treatment plans tailored to your needs, ensuring optimal results for your oral well-being.

An orthodontist has dedicated an extra 24 to 36 months to mastering the intricacies of teeth and jaw alignment. This extensive training ensures they possess comprehensive expertise in assessing and addressing issues related to your dental alignment and bite functionality.

Orthodontists fulfill a range of crucial roles:

  • They oversee facial growth, particularly the development of the jawline and bite, in children.
  • Diagnosing and treating misaligned teeth and jaws, known as malocclusion, is their expertise.
  • Crafting personalized treatment plans, which may incorporate braces, retainers, or other dental appliances.
  • They are skilled in performing teeth straightening surgery when necessary.
  • Installation of various dental appliances, including braces, palatal expanders, orthodontic headgear, and Herbst appliances, falls within their purview.

Should You See an Orthodontist or Dentist?

Consider your dentist as your primary care provider for dental health, akin to a general practitioner, while your orthodontist serves as a specialized expert.

Jaw misalignment, tooth overcrowding, and the need for palate expansion often require specialized care. It’s recommended that children undergo orthodontic assessment by age 7 to gauge the potential need for braces. As an adult, if you suspect issues like a misaligned jaw line or crooked teeth, you might opt to consult directly with an orthodontist rather than starting with a dentist.


When prioritizing your health, it’s crucial not to compromise. Straightening teeth and aligning bites are intricate biological processes that demand thorough attention, not quick fixes. At Vanderwall Orthodontics, we specialize in both areas and are equipped to tailor a custom treatment plan specifically for you, ensuring optimal results for your oral health and well-being.

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