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What is the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?

Welcome to Reese Orthodontics, your Charleston, SC premier Invisalign and Braces professional. We look forward to helping you obtain your best smile.

Understanding the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist can help you decide whose services you need. Both specialize in diagnosing and treating oral health conditions. However, their education and offered services differ. Read on to learn the difference between a dentist and orthodontist and how to determine which services you require.

Need to see an orthodontist? Visit Reese Orthodontics in Charleston, SC for leading orthodontic care.

Similarities Between Dentists and Orthodontists

These two professions are often combined. However, other than specializing in oral health, they are distinct fields of study. The education required to achieve each career and the treatments and services offered by each are radically different. Let’s take a closer look:

Treatments Offered by Dentists

Dentists receive their undergraduate degrees before attending a dental school to become a doctor of dentistry. To become certified in oral health, dentists receive in-depth training in diagnosing and treating issues related to teeth, tongues, gums, and other oral conditions. They are trained to clean and maintain their patients’ teeth as well.

Dentists often hire hygienists to do teeth maintenance, cleaning, and scans. These hygienists receive similar training but do not achieve the full degrees and certification required to be a dentist. Dentists are trained to do everything a hygienist can do. The reverse is not true.

Services offered by dentists include dental x-rays, administering fillings, crowns, and bridges, repairing or extracting teeth, treating gum and tooth diseases, prescribing drugs for oral health, and treating children’s developing teeth.

When to See a Dentist

The ADA recommends seeing a dentist every six months for checkups, x-rays, and cleanings. In this way, dentists are the oral health equivalent of your general practitioner.  Any issues related to pain in your teeth or gums, cracked teeth, loose fillings, or discolored teeth can be treated by seeing a dentist.

If you suspect you have oral inflammation related to gum disease or infections, a dentist should be your first line of defense.

Treatments Offered by Orthodontists

Orthodontists also receive post-graduate education to become specialists in Orthodontics. Like dentists, they have been trained to diagnose oral conditions. However, orthodontists specialize in tooth alignment and occlusion. They focus on the alignment of your teeth and jaw as well as their structural condition.

Services offered by orthodontists include diagnosing alignment issues in both teeth and jaw structure, applying braces, retainers, and other appliances. For cosmetic or health reasons, orthodontists treat misaligned and crowded teeth as well as bite issues.

To become certified as an orthodontist, dentists must finish dental school and then complete 2-3 years of orthodontic certification training,  including a residency program.

Explore the Treatment Options available at Reese Orthodontics

When to See an Orthodontist

The American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) recommends that all children see an orthodontist at age 7 to evaluate whether they will need braces, jaw correction, or other realignment procedures.

Other than this initial recommended visit, orthodontists can help you treat specialized issues with your teeth and jaw. This commonly includes fixing crooked teeth for cosmetic reasons. However, crowded teeth can also cause oral health problems such as plaque buildup, speech impediments, and bite issues. Orthodontists can evaluate and treat these issues.

Misaligned teeth, overbites, underbites, crossbites, and other structural problems can be treated by orthodontists as well. You can think of an orthodontist as a specialist who can treat problems related to growth, structure, and alignment—while the dentist is more like your regular oral care provider, who provides general prevention and restorative services.

Payment Differences

Dental insurance covers some or all of the costs of seeing a dentist for regular cleanings and certain treatments. Some insurances do cover orthodontic treatment. It is very confusing and our office will be more than happy to call and verify your orthodontic benefits.

Even if you know you need an orthodontist, you do not need a referral from your dentist to see one. Call our office today for a free consultation. 

At Reese Orthodontics, we do everything we can to help ensure your orthodontic treatment is as affordable as possible. For starters, our complimentary smile analysis includes a complete exam, photos of your smile, Planmeca low-radiation panoramic digital x-rays, a tour of our state-of-the-art office, and a comprehensive treatment consultation—a $275 value, all yours for FREE! We will also be happy to help you work with your insurance to determine applicable coverage.

How to Choose Between a Dentist and Orthodontist

Pain in your teeth or gums should send you to your dentist for a checkup. They can administer x-rays and evaluate your teeth for cavities, decay, and other issues. Most importantly, they can refer you to an orthodontist if your issues result from spacing, alignment, or jaw problems.

If you or your child have never visited an orthodontist, you can schedule an appointment to be evaluated for appliances that can correct your alignment or bite problems. Bite issues can often cause pain and other impediments when left untreated. Orthodontists specialize in structural changes in your teeth and jaw from childhood to old age. They can diagnose and treat these problems to give you a straighter, perfect smile.

Choose Reese Orthodontics

For orthodontic treatments in Charleston, SC, Reese Orthodontics offers the best available care. We use the latest technology and treatment options to offer advanced and comfortable orthodontic care. Treatable oral conditions worsen over time. Schedule an appointment with us today to stay ahead of your oral health and receive the best possible treatment in your area.

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Our expert Charleston County orthodontist and highly trained staff at Reese Orthodontics are eager to join you on the journey to a healthier and happier smile.
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