Nearly 3.5 billion people around the world are affected by oral diseases. With evidence linking oral health to general health, access to proper dental care is vital. Apart from brushing and flossing your teeth, you should also visit a dental specialist to take care of all your oral problems.

But when you experience a dental problem, it can be a little confusing deciding whether you need to see a dentist or orthodontist. While both specialists strive to give you a beautiful healthy smile, each provides different dental services.

To help you out of the orthodontist vs. dentist dilemma and determine the right specialist for you, here’s a guide that explains their differences.

What Is An Orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a licensed dentist who specializes in treating malocclusions to help make your teeth more aligned. This dental specialist will evaluate your bite to determine the best solution for your needs—whether you need braces or dental plates.

If you have crooked or misaligned teeth, you should visit an orthodontist to improve your oral function and appearance. It’s also recommended to take your children to an orthodontist for a check-up no later than age 7. This allows the orthodontist to detect malocclusions and treat them as soon as possible.

What Is A Dentist?

Dentistry is a broad medical field that focuses on the health of your gums, teeth, mouth, and jaw. A dentist can diagnose and treat a variety of dental problems including cavities, gum diseases, and more. They also offer professional oral cleaning and X-rays to maintain good dental health. Ensure you visit a dentist at least twice a year for optimal results.

Orthodontist Vs. Dentist: What’s The Difference?

From teeth misalignment to tooth decay, dental problems vary and so do the specialists that treat these issues. Here is a dentist vs orthodontist guide to help you understand their differences.


Although dentists and orthodontists get a lot of the same education, orthodontists need to receive additional training after graduating from dental school.

Usually, dentists go to college for a pre-medical degree before going on to a graduate school of dentistry. To become a dentist, you must complete four years of undergraduate education and four years of dental school.

Once done, you need to pass a written test and a clinical examination before you’re qualified to practice. General dentists can either be a DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry) or a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery).

To qualify as an orthodontist, you need to attend an orthodontic residency program after completing your pre-medical major and dental school. The courses go beyond basic dental training, taking a more specific focus on orthodontics. It can take about two to three years to get a specialty certification as an orthodontist.

Areas Of Practice

Dentists treat your overall oral health while orthodontists specialize in helping you with your orthodontic problems. Dentists encourage good oral hygiene by providing the following care:

  • Conduct and interpret dental X-rays
  • Oversee the development of children’s teeth
  • Extract teeth
  • Fill cavities
  • Fill and bond teeth
  • Repair cracked teeth
  • Install crowns or veneers
  • Whiten teeth
  • Treat gum disease, like gingivitis
  • Perform oral surgery

Orthodontists are also doctors of oral health but their specialty is different. Here are dental services an orthodontist provides:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of misaligned teeth and jaws
  • Correction of irregular bites—overbite, crossbite, or underbite
  • Supervision of facial growth — jawline and bite —in children
  • Teeth straightening surgery
  • Installation of dental appliances, such as braces

Your dental issues will determine whether you should visit an orthodontist or a dentist clinic.

Duration Of Treatment

The number of times you visit an orthodontist and a dentist also varies. You should visit a dentist at least twice a year. They will check the health of your teeth, gums, and mouth, recommending a dental specialist whenever necessary.

As for an orthodontist, you only see them during your orthodontic treatment. Once your teeth are aligned, continue visiting your dentist for optimal oral care.

Benefits Of Visiting An Orthodontist

As stated above, it’s a standard recommendation to should visit a dentist every six months but what about an orthodontist. Here are reasons why you should schedule a visit to an orthodontist clinic:

Lower Risk Of Tooth Damage

When your teeth are misaligned, they’re more likely to get damaged. Any injury or force can cause them to chip, crack, or break. Getting orthodontic treatment like Invisalign aligners can properly straighten your teeth, making them stronger and more resistant to injury.

Better Oral Health

Misaligned teeth can be hard to brush or floss. Food particles may get stuck between them, causing plaque buildup and even tooth decay. When you visit an orthodontist, they can correctly align your teeth. This makes it easier to keep them clean and healthy for longer.

Alleviate Jaw-Related Pain

Orthodontic problems can affect the way you speak and chew. You can also strain your jaw since you have to alter your jaw movements to avoid biting yourself.

This can often lead to chronic jaw pain and even headaches. Seeing an orthodontist in Nashville, TN for teeth straightening can enable your jaw to relax, offering relief.

Increased Confidence

Crooked or misaligned teeth may make you feel embarrassed to smile or laugh. An orthodontist can give you a beautiful, healthy, and straight smile, improving your self-confidence

Prevention of Orthodontic Problems

Do you have children? You can reduce their chances of having crooked teeth and irregular bites by taking them to the orthodontist as early as seven years.

During six to 12 years your child’s primary teeth will be replaced with permanent successors – thus, it’s important to have the growth of their jaws and teeth monitored. It reduces the need for complex future treatments.

Should You See An Orthodontist Or A Dentist?

Need dental treatment? Don’t know whether to visit an orthodontist or a dentist? It all depends on your dental needs and goals. The aforementioned orthodontist vs. dentist guide will help you make the right choice.

For comprehensive orthodontic treatment in Nashville TN, schedule an appointment at Doyle Orthodontics.