When it comes to getting your teeth straightened, you need to know the difference between dentists and orthodontists. It’s important to know that all orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists. This is because the dentistry profession, like medicine, is divided into primary care dentists and specialists.
All dentists attend college, usually for four years, then attend another four years of dental school. In dental school, they are taught the basics of several procedures, and learn to clean teeth, diagnose cavities and oral diseases, and do crowns, bridges, root canals, and silver and tooth-colored fillings. They also learn to perform a number of surgical procedures, make complete and partial removable dentures, and much more. Once they graduate from dental school and pass their clinical exams, they earn their licenses to practice as dentists. At this time, these dentists are called general dentists, general practitioners, GPs, or primary care dentists.
To become a specialist, such as an oral surgeon, a pediatric dentist, or an orthodontist, a dentist has to be accepted into a residency program, where they will spend an additional three or more years becoming an expert in one particular area of dentistry. They spend this time training with both academic and private practice specialists, and by the time they complete their residency, they typically have completed more procedures in their one specialized area than a recent dental school graduate has done in all areas of dentistry.
Primary care dentists are the best to see when it comes to fillings, cleanings, and cosmetic procedures like veneers. In reality, primary care dentists are not prevented from completing difficult surgeries, like removing wisdom teeth, or orthodontic treatments, like applying a set of braces. With a dental license, a dentist is technically allowed to complete both of these procedures. However, the best primary care dentists work closely with a team of specialists so that their patients receive the highest quality of care. This is important because no matter how talented they may be, it is impossible for a primary care dentist to perform root canals, place implants, extract wisdom teeth, or apply braces as well as a specialist could. Every dental patient can (and should) consult a specialist when they need to make a significant decision about their teeth.
Here are some of the most common types of dental specialties:
Orthodontist: They create beautiful smiles by utilizing braces, Invisalign, and expanders. They are experts in facial growth and jaw relationships.
Pediatric Dentist: They specialize in all aspects of dentistry related to children and adolescents. They have advanced training in sedation, anesthesia, and behavior management of children.
Endodontist: They are the most knowledgeable about root canals.
Oral Surgeon: They perform surgical dental procedures related to wisdom teeth, extractions, implant placements, and the removal of tumors and cancer. They also sometimes complete medical school and have M.D. after their names.
Periodontist: They specialize in the gums, and are skilled in treating periodontal disease (commonly known as gum disease), completing gum grafts, and performing gum surgery.