Dentists and orthodontists are similar in various ways. Each has the necessary expertise to give you a dazzling smile. But while each can treat your pearly whites, dentists and orthodontists specialize in different areas of oral health. Choosing the right one depends on your unique circumstances.
What Do Dentists Focus On?
Dentists must earn a bachelor’s degree before they enter dental school. Dental school consists of a four-year doctoral degree program. The dental student graduates with a doctor of dental surgery (D.D.S.) or doctor of dental medicine (D.M.D.) distinction.
A dentist usually focuses on the following dental services:
- Cleanings (performed by dental hygienists who assist the dentist)
- Tooth extractions
- Filling cavities
- Making models for dentures or bridgework
- Root canals
- Tooth whitening
- Gum care
Essentially, a dentist is your first choice to perform routine, overall dental care. When you have dental issues outside the scope of general dentistry, your dentist will refer you to an orthodontist.
What Do Orthodontists Focus On?
Like dentists, orthodontists must earn a bachelor’s degree and either a D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree. However, orthodontist students continue their education for another three years in a residency program at a university affiliated with the American Dental Association. After a successful residency, the student will be eligible to seek board certification from the American Board of Orthodontics.
Unlike dentists that specialize in complete oral care, orthodontists specialize in correcting tooth and jaw alignment problems using non-surgical techniques. Some orthodontic procedures include:
- Diagnosing overbites and underbites
- Attaching braces or retainers to straighten crooked, crowded, or overly gapped teeth
- Overseeing the proper use of Invisalign
- Attaching wires and other corrective appliances for jaw misalignments
Orthodontists give their patients confidence by restoring a winning smile, but by correcting jaw or tooth alignments a patient can avoid tooth decay, get relief for strained jaw muscles from chewing, and avoid gum disease.
Should I See a Dentist or Orthodontist or Both?
It’s important for everyone to see a dentist yearly for an overall checkup and a hygienist twice a year for cleanings. If your teeth are gums are in good shape, a yearly dentist visit will keep you on the road to good oral health. During your exam, your dentist will check your x-rays for signs that your teeth are moving out of alignment and to look for cavities. The dentist will visually inspect your teeth and check for loose fillings. Any minor problems can be fixed during the exam or at a follow-up appointment. Cleanings are important because the hygienist removes harmful plaque buildup from your teeth and inspects your gums for signs of periodontal disease.
If your dentist notices problems with your tooth alignment of discovers that your jaw is misaligned, they will refer you to a trusted orthodontist to correct the problems. Some dental practices employ both dentists and orthodontists, but many maintain separate practices. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that you first consult with an orthodontist at age 7. Also, you do not need a referral from you general dentist for an orthodontist.
Where Can I Find an Orthodontist in NYC?
At Amazing Smiles, we offer high quality, affordable orthodontic care to residents of Long Island, Forest Hills, Brooklyn, and the surrounding communities. Dentists throughout the greater NYC area have referred their patients to our practice for more than 30 years to correct dental problems requiring braces, retainers, Invisalign, and much more. Contact us today for an appointment.