The Difference Between an Orthodontist and a Dentist
What are people really thinking when they hear or read the words “dentist” and “orthodontist” in the same sentence? Not surprisingly, most people are confused as to what the differences between the two are. Some may even mistake one for the other. This is not uncommon and many are still ignorant as to how orthodontists differ from dentists.
People may be surprised to know that orthodontists are actually dentists. General dentists are people who have completed their med school training and gone on to study general dentistry at a dental college. These doctors are only licensed to perform general dentistry on their patients. General dentistry is the branch of dentistry that deals with common oral and dental problems such as tooth decay, tooth stains, extractions, gum diseases and overall oral and dental health. They are not specialized in any way and their area of expertise is limited to general dentistry.
Orthodontists, on the other hand, are dentists who have studied the branch of dentistry called orthodontics. It is quite difficult to become an orthodontist since a dentist has to study and specialize on orthodontics for two additional years. This two-year residency period is what separates the orthodontists from the dentists. During this time, all the knowledge and training relevant to the field of orthodontics is given to the aspiring orthodontist. After the residency, the dentist is now a qualified orthodontist and may now be able to perform services which only licensed orthodontists are allowed to do. These services include, but are not limited to, tracking and correcting tooth movement (orthodontics) and guiding facial development (facial orthopedics). These doctors are also licensed to perform cosmetic surgery such as installing braces. General dentists can also be licensed to install braces but, typically, their services and results differ from the other with orthodontists displaying more expertise because of their training.
Picture it like this. Suppose a man goes to college to try and become a doctor. After a few years, he completes his med school physician’s training. After he is licensed by the proper authorities, he is now a general medical practitioner. He engages in general medicine but he has no specialty, no area of expertise. He only performs basic medical procedures and surgery such as circumcisions and promotes the general well-being and health of people.
However, say the physician decides to take a residency program in order to specialize on cardiology and he completes the program, he is now a licensed cardiologist or heart disease expert. He has more knowledge than a general practitioner about heart diseases. He can practice his trade courtesy of his license but he can also still practice general medicine if he chooses to. This is how orthodontists and dentists differ from each other, the orthodontist being the more specialized doctor.
To put it differently, orthodontists are dentists who have completed a residency program specifically for advanced orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. In a nutshell, orthodontists are dentists specially and carefully trained to correct crooked teeth.