How is an Orthodontist Different from a Dentist?

Posted on 10/17/2018

Orthodontist Dr. Theobald treating young male child

Seeing both an orthodontist and a dentist is important for your oral health. Although both professions are similar, they have some differences that you should consider before straightening your teeth.

First, let’s review how dentists and orthodontists are similar.

Dentists and orthodontists both:

  • Graduated from dental school
  • Work on teeth
  • Help improve oral health
  • Both have the ability to provide orthodontics (braces or clear aligners) to straighten teeth

Orthodontists study an additional 2-3 years after dental school in an accredited program to become specialized in straightening teeth, aligning your bite and jaw, how teeth function, and more.

An orthodontist is specialized to help patients in the following ways:

  • Straightens crooked teeth with braces or clear aligners
  • Aligns the bite and jaw
  • Closes spaces between the teeth
  • Fixes overly crowded teeth
  • Helps with TMJ issues
  • Helps with speech difficulty
  • Improves self-esteem and confidence
  • Helps stop oral habits, like thumb sucking
  • Works closely with dentists to improve oral health

Orthodontists specialize and focus in a specific area of dentistry, because they are dedicated to being the best at moving teeth and correcting bites.


Dentists are skilled in the following ways

  • Focus on overall oral health
  • Clean the teeth and gums
  • Treat decayed or failed teeth
  • Watch for oral diseases
  • Educate patients on taking care of their teeth and gums
  • Whitening of teeth
  • Implants
  • Extractions
  • Root canals
  • Straighten teeth with clear aligners and sometimes braces

Often times, dentists refer patients to see an orthodontist depending on the difficulty of the patient’s treatment. The five doctors at Orthodontic Associates work very closely with the referring dentists on patient’s treatment plans. We highly encourage all patients to continue seeing their dentist twice a year for cleanings and checkups during their orthodontic treatment.  


Both dentists and orthodontists are highly skilled and educated. When working with both on your oral health, your smile will be healthy, straight and no doubt, beautiful.

For more information on how orthodontists and dentists are different, please visit aao.com.

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