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How are Orthodontists and Orthopedists Different?

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

If you or your child requires oral health care due to crowding, bite issues, or other problems, you may wonder about the difference between orthodontists and orthopedists. While both treat structural issues, their areas of expertise differ.

To plan for your treatment needs and avoid unnecessary initial appointments with the wrong specialist, continue reading for a breakdown of how orthodontists differ from orthopedists, including which you should see for the issues you are experiencing.

Want to find out if you or your child needs braces? Visit Reese Orthodontics in Charleston, SC for leading orthodontic care.

What is an Orthodontist?

An orthodontist comprehensively treats malocclusions, which include anything obstructing a patient’s oral health, like a misaligned bite or crowded teeth. They are qualified to treat patients with numerous orthodontic treatments, depending on the changes they prescribe. These include:

  • Braces (including full, lingual, Invisalign, self-ligating, and ceramic)
  • Other fixed appliances (including elastics, clear aligners, headgear, palate expanders, pendulums, Herbst appliances, and more)
  • Tooth extraction appliances

To make the desired changes, board-certified orthodontists are qualified to conduct X-rays and oral exams. They may refer you to a dentist if you have cavities or other dental health issues before treatment, but they can examine and diagnose malocclusions based on your in-office scans and tests.

What is an Orthopedist?

By contrast, an orthopedist works with the condition of the patient’s bones, muscles, joints, and other structures. Generally, you would see an orthopedist for back, foot, leg, or shoulder pain. The most common conditions they treat include osteoporosis, arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Commonly, orthopedists are recommended by lawyers after a car accident or by workers’ comp attorneys after a work-related injury. The treatments that orthopedists can administer include:

  • Joint replacement, such as by a prosthesis
  • Arthroscopy, which uses an inserted camera apparatus to diagnose joint injuries
  • Osteotomy, which cuts and replaces bones to correct defects or injuries
  • Setting broken bones using screws or plates, a process known as “internal fixation”
  • Cartilage surgery for worn joints
  • Welding or grafting bones together, a process called “fusion”
  • Amputating limbs

In most cases, you will need an orthodontist to treat your oral health issues rather than an orthopedist. However, a sub-section of orthopedics known as “dentofacial orthopedics” could provide specialized treatment in your case.

What is a Dentofacial Orthopedist?

A dentofacial orthopedist specializes in the bone, muscle, and joint structures of the face. This means that jaw alignment, bite, and crowding issues could be treated by this type of orthopedist if the problem stems from these structures.

For example, in young patients whose jaws are still forming, an orthodontist may be able to predict severe misalignment that warrants surgery. They may refer them to a dentofacial orthopedist to adjust the jaw so that the needed orthodontic treatments are more effective.

Even in adults, dentofacial orthopedists can diagnose and correct face and jaw issues. They may prescribe appliances similar to those used by orthodontists to correct an alignment issue causing your underbite, overbite, or crossbite. If left untreated, bite misalignment can lead to painful symptoms such as:

  • Jaw and face pain
  • Facial sensitivity
  • Jaw fatigue
  • Worn or broken teeth
  • TMD

The longer you wait to treat a misaligned jaw, the more difficult it will be to correct. This is why seeing the correct specialist is essential. The root cause of your oral health issues should be determined before settling on a treatment plan, and thankfully, any of these specialists can get you to the right place.

Therefore, your goal should be to avoid unneeded extra appointments or treatments that do not address the root cause of your symptoms. Since orthodontists cover all areas of oral health and will likely be able to treat your or your child’s problems, they are the best choice for your first evaluation. If they think that a dentofacial orthopedist could help you, they will be able to refer you to one after your exam.

Choose Reese Orthodontics

If you’re an adult who is considering braces, you need professional advice on your treatment and payment options. For orthodontic treatments in Charleston, SC, Reese Orthodontics offers the latest technology and treatment plans. Our advanced and comfortable orthodontic treatments can be customized to suit your needs. A consultation with Reese Orthodontics includes scans, a comprehensive exam, and a conversation with the orthodontist to discover which treatment options are right for you. 

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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