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The Difference Between an Orthodontist & Dentist

Wondering about the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist? Our Toronto orthodontists explain.

What is an Orthodontist?

Orthodontists specialize in dental development and facial growth, including alignment of the jaw and teeth. An orthodontist's most important task is to identify issues with your mouth and teeth. 

They are qualified to provide treatments for both moderate and complex orthodontic cases. Treatment options may include traditional metal braces, retainers and clear aligners. In extreme cases, patients may need a palate expander to widen the arch of the upper jaw and give the area more space. Patients with severely misaligned teeth may need to use headgear to pull front teeth back while slowing the growth of an upper jaw. 

While some dentists do provide orthodontic treatment for misalignments classified as mild or moderate, they would not usually treat complex cases, and will only provide a limited number of treatment options.

Qualifications & Training

The Canadian Dental Association recognizes nine dental specialties, including orthodontics. To become a dentist, one must graduate from dental school. Some graduates will then go on to practice as dentists immediately. We call these general dentists.

Orthodontists will take more training after graduating from dental school. They will complete an accredited advanced education program in orthodontics, then attain a specialty designation from the provincial dental regulatory authority in their province.

What are the differences in practice between orthodontics & dentistry?

While your general dentist cares for your routine dental health care needs, your orthodontist attends to all of your specific orthodontic needs.

You’ll go to your dentist for regular dental cleanings and examinations, in addition to restorations and treatments such as dental crowns, bridges, fillings, root canals, and more.

Most orthodontists will not provide this routine or restorative care. Instead, they focus primarily on helping to straighten their patients’ teeth and improving jaw alignment. 

Why should I get orthodontic treatment?

While orthodontics can help improve the look of your smile, there can also be many benefits for your oral health.

A bad bite can make speaking and chewing challenging, and cause uneven wear on your teeth. Clenching or grinding of your teeth may also be an issue. Teeth that are crowded, misaligned or overlapped may be difficult to clean, resulting in gum disease, tooth decay, and potentially even loss of teeth.

Orthodontic issues may also have consequences for your overall physical health, such as headaches or earaches. 

Depending on the patient's condition, an orthodontist can effectively diagnose the issue and may even be able to correct it with early intervention. He or she may also develop a customized orthodontic treatment program involving braces, a retainer, clear aligners or other measures. Orthodontists can also treat patients of any age, and more adults are choosing to undergo orthodontic treatment today in an effort to help straighten their teeth. 

An orthodontist can treat malocclusions or misalignments, and help you achieve a healthier, straighter and more symmetrical smile. Correctly aligned teeth can contribute to improved oral health, as they may be easier to brush, floss and clean.

Do you have questions about how dental care? Contact our Toronto dentists today.

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