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What Makes an Orthodontist Different From a Dentist?

Posted on February 7, 2023

There are many dental specialists available these days. So much so, one may wonder how they all differ. It’s especially true when comparing an orthodontist to a dentist. Between education and experience, there are many things that distinguish a dentist from an orthodontist. Read on to see how these two dental professionals differ.

Both Are Dentists

All orthodontists are trained dentists, but only 5% of dentists are also orthodontists, according to the American Orthodontic Society. This means that an orthodontist has gone through additional years of training and specialization after becoming a dentist. As such, both professionals have the same basic knowledge of dentistry and oral health but put that knowledge to different purposes.

Preventative Care

A general dentist focuses primarily on preventive care and treating common dental problems like cavities or gum disease. These dentists may also provide cosmetic services like teeth whitening or veneers. An orthodontist has a similar focus but instead specializes in corrective treatments for misaligned teeth and jaws.

Corrective Care

The best orthodontist is the one best suited for your particular needs. Orthodontists have the specialized training and experience necessary to detect, diagnose, and prescribe treatments for misalignments. They may provide braces, clear aligners, retainers, or any other orthodontic device designed to correct malocclusions.


When you go to your general dentist, they may refer you to an orthodontist when they detect a misalignment. This referral is especially likely if general dentistry treatments prove to be ineffective for the problem at hand. Orthodontists also work in close coordination with dentists when correcting orthodontic issues.

Age of Patients

There was a time when orthodontists would mostly see kids and teens. While orthodontics can begin at a young age, adult braces are becoming more popular. A general dentist will also see patients of all ages. The only difference is when a dentist specializes in pediatrics, those clients will be children. When a baby or toddler begins dental visits, it will always be with a dentist. Some people may never need to see an orthodontist.

At the end of the day, there is a distinct difference between the best dentist and the best orthodontist. While both professions are essential to overall oral health, they focus on different areas. A dentist typically provides preventative care, while an orthodontist focuses more on corrective treatments. If you think you may need an orthodontic specialist, reach out to Best Smiles today!