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Touchstone Orthodontics News

What’s The Difference Between A Dentist and Orthodontist

Can your dentist serve as your orthodontist? This is a great question—and with good reason. Both see you in a reclining chair with your mouth wide open. Both dentists and orthodontists focus on teeth and oral health. But, while they both work on your mouth, their roles are quite different.


General dentists, also known as family dentists, are a lot like a family doctor. They’re typically focused on overall oral wellness, much like a family doctor is focused on general health. Dentists treat cavities and help patients learn the best way to take care of their teeth and gums. They also perform procedures for crowns, veneers, and sometimes extractions (tooth removal) and root canals. Generally speaking, when it comes to correcting alignment and bite issues, gum disease, or other specific oral health problems, a dentist will refer patients to a specialist. This is very similar to the way a family doctor might refer a patient with a broken wrist to an orthopedic specialist.

Orthodontics and Other Dental Specialities

To become a dental specialist, dental students first complete four years of general dental education and then go on to additional coursework in their specialty. These specialties include practices like orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics, and maxillofacial surgery. Orthodontists focus on bite and jaw alignment. Endodontists specialize in root canal therapy. Periodontists focus on the support structure of the mouth, including gums and bones. And maxillofacial surgeons perform a variety of procedures, including extractions and facial reconstructive surgery.

While a dentist may offer some of these services, like a root canal, tooth extraction and sometimes even aligners and braces, general dentists are not specialists. They are certainly knowledgeable about oral wellness and dental health, however, learning how to correct an issue like jaw alignment is an entirely separate area of educational study that goes beyond general dentistry.

Bottom line: If you are looking for routine dental care, see your dentist. If you need orthodontic treatment, see your orthodontist. If you want the best service with a smile, see Touchstone Orthodontics!

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