It goes without saying that great dental care is an important part of your overall health and well-being. But sometimes, it can be tricky deciding which kind of dental care is right for you. Should you see a dentist or orthodontist? It really boils down to your personal needs and goals.
To help you decide on the dentist vs orthodontist question and determine which is right for you, we’ll first highlight the main aspects of each, then explain the difference between dentists and orthodontists.
What is a Dentist?
Most of us have probably seen a dentist at some point in our lives – hopefully on a regular basis for professional cleanings and X-rays to maintain good dental health. Dentistry is a broad medical field that focuses on the health of the teeth, gums, mouth, and jaw. Dentists treat a wide variety oral health issues and diseases including cavities, tooth decay, and gum diseases such as gingivitis. Dentists are also licensed surgeons and able to perform various procedures such as root canals if necessary.
For most people, seeing a dentist twice a year is optimal to ensure the best dental health possible. Ideally, you can designate one visit just for cleaning, and the other for cleaning as well as X-rays of your mouth and jaw to detect any potential problems.
What is an Orthodontist?
While a dentist focuses on the broader aspects of the mouth, an orthodontist is a licensed dentist who specializes in the correction of dental irregularities such as crooked teeth, overcrowded teeth, and over- or underbites. In order to become an orthodontist, a dentist must complete at least two additional years of coursework that’s specific to the field of orthodontics. An orthodontist evaluates your bite to determine the best solution for your needs, such as braces. A dentist may refer patients to their preferred orthodontist if it’s determined that further oral care is needed beyond the scope of general dentistry.
Common orthodontic issues such as crooked or misaligned teeth aren’t just unattractive, superficial concerns. They can contribute to a number of more serious problems, including headaches, lockjaw, speech impediments, and bone destruction, just to name a few. That’s why it’s important to talk to your general dentist to see if orthodontics is recommended.
The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children visit an orthodontist for a check-up no later than age 7. This allows the orthodontist to detect potential problems as soon as possible and help guide the child’s growth and development.
Dentist vs. Orthodontist: What’s the Difference?
There is definitely some overlap between a dentist and orthodontist. Think of it this way: all orthodontists are qualified dentists, but not all dentists are qualified orthodontists. Orthodontists typically specialize in aligning teeth and jaws, while dentists can help patients achieve a cleaner, healthier smile through cleanings, X-rays, and even surgery.
If you meet any of these criteria, then you should see a dentist as soon as possible:
- You’re concerned about the general health of your teeth or gums
- You suspect you may have a cavity, tooth decay, or gum disease
- You want to learn more about how to keep your mouth clean to prevent disease or other dental issues
The dentist will be able to evaluate your oral health and provide you with the hygienic care you need.
If any of these criteria sound familiar to you, you should see an orthodontist:
- Your teeth are crooked, misaligned, or overcrowded
- You have an over- or underbite
- Your teeth affect your ability to chew food or speak properly
- Your teeth are giving you various aches and pains
An orthodontist will be able to evaluate the alignment of your teeth and determine the best course of action to correct your bite.
A field that combines the best of both dentistry and orthodontics is cosmetic dentistry. This specialized field of dentistry specifically focuses on improving the cosmetic appearance of smiles through options such as teeth whitening, veneers, and porcelain crowns. These procedures create a visibly healthier smile without the need for braces, making cosmetic dentistry a great option for adults who don’t want to go through the hassle of traditional orthodontics.
Another cosmetic dentistry option is Invisalign. Invisalign uses a series of clear trays that are custom fitted to your mouth to realign your teeth for a straighter smile. Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign aligners are virtually invisible, which makes them ideal for those who don’t want to be inhibited by wires or brackets. Invisalign has been demonstrated to be just as effective as regular braces with a number of success stories to prove it.
We here at the Dr. David Evans DDS office hope that we’ve helped to clarify the difference between a dentist and orthodontist. If you have any further questions about our services or want to learn more about whether a dentist or orthodontist is right for you, contact us today. We can’t wait to help guide you on your path to wellness.