What is the Difference between an Orthodontist and a Dentist?

File Sep 07, 2 03 02 PM

Orthodontists and dentists both improve the oral health of patients, but in very different ways. Dentistry is a broad medical specialty that deals with the teeth, gum, nerves, and jaw, while orthodontics specializes in correcting bites, occlusion, and the straightness of teeth.

Orthodontists are dentists as well, but they go through additional special training to learn how to straighten teeth. “To become an orthodontist, after finishing dental school, we completed a 2-3 year orthodontic residency program. In that program we studied and learned the physiology of tooth movement,” says Dr. Janet Stoess-Allen of Park Avenue Orthodontics. “In order to understand and implement the tooth movements required to align the teeth properly and create a beautiful smile, it is critical to know exactly how to move each and every tooth.”

So, which one should you see? Well, if you need to improve your bite or straighten your teeth, then you should see an orthodontist. “Without completing an orthodontic residency program this would not be learned. Much like if a medical patient needs a broken bone mended, they would see an orthopedist and not a general medical doctor, the same should hold true for a dental patient who needs their teeth moved,” says Dr. Stoess-Allen, “They should be treated by an orthodontist.”