Maintaining a healthy mouth and seeing a dentist on a regular basis or an orthodontic dentist as needed is not only great for maintaining healthy teeth and gums but is also a benefit for your overall health. Gum disease and tooth decay are just two examples of dental problems that can lead to life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease. This is why it’s critical to be knowledgeable about what’s going on in your mouth and when you need to visit a dentist or orthodontist.
There are times when a trip to the dentist is necessary, but there are other instances when an orthodontist’s visit is more beneficial. Dentists are not trained to address all oral health problems. Knowing the difference between the two can assist you in determining which dental expert to contact and when.
What Is the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?
Although a dentist and an orthodontist both strive to maintain your teeth and mouth in excellent condition, they each have distinct responsibilities that set them apart.
A dentist who specializes in general dentistry has been trained to examine your gums, teeth, mouth, and tongue for any abnormalities. An orthodontist has received the same training, but also focuses on tooth and jaw misalignment. This is one of the many reasons why everyone should visit a dentist, but not everyone requires the aid of an orthodontist.
You should visit your general dentist on a regular basis for cleanings and check-ups, which can discover additional issues. One example of the issues your dentist may discover is crooked teeth or misaligned teeth, which could lead to a referral to an orthodontic dentist. Some problems that require orthodontic treatment are obvious, while others only dentists will be able to detect.
What Exactly Does a Dentist Do?
General dentists are the most common type of dentist. Your regular dental practitioner is a general dentist. Consider your dentist to be a general practitioner for your teeth. Just as you would visit a doctor for other health concerns, you may visit an orthodontist to address certain dental issues.
Your dentist cares for your total oral health. This includes:
- Filling cavities
- Filling and bonding teeth
- Repairing cracked teeth
- Extracting teeth
- Treating gum disease
- Teeth whitening
- Installing crowns or veneers
- Examine dental x-rays
The actual cleaning component of a dental office visit is usually handled by a dental hygienist, even if you go to the dentist for a routine checkup. The dentist will come in after the cleaning to look over your mouth for concerns.
What Does an Orthodontist Do?
An orthodontist is also a dentist, and his or her attention to oral health is just as great as that of a dentist. An orthodontic dentist has the knowledge to diagnose and treat oral problems arising with your teeth, gums, and in your mouth. However, orthodontist expertise is directed toward the alignment of teeth and jaws. Crowded teeth, underbites or overbites, and crooked teeth are all examples of alignment issues. The following are some of their primary responsibilities:
- Identifying and treating misaligned teeth
- Installing orthodontic braces as well as other alignment-correcting devices such as orthodontic headgear
- Performing surgery to straighten teeth
- Supervising tooth growth and alignment in children
If your dentist detects misaligned teeth or believes you need teeth straightening surgery, you may require orthodontic treatment. It’s critical to realize that crooked or misaligned teeth should be repaired for non-aesthetic reasons. They can cause a variety of symptoms, such as lockjaw, speech impediments, headaches, and more. Repairing these issues may improve your quality of life as a whole.
Orthodontist vs. Dentist Training
Dental school is a three to four-year postgraduate educational program that prepares students for the practice of dentistry. Dentists generally enroll in college to obtain a pre-dentistry or pre-medical education. They subsequently attend graduate school at a dental institution. Before becoming certified, dentists must complete extensive training, a residency, and pass a rigorous examination.
Dentists who attend dental school generally spend their first two years in the classroom and lab. The final two years of study are completed at a government-approved dental institution. They must pass the National Dental Exam to be licensed to practice dentistry after they have completed that program.
Orthodontists must complete the same education and training, but they need further instruction in order to obtain their orthodontic certification. This is generally done through an orthodontic residency program for two to three years, allowing them to obtain their specialty certificate in orthodontics.
To become a dentist, a person must complete eight years of higher education; however, to become an orthodontist, he or she must spend 10-11 years in school.
When to See an Orthodontist vs. a Dentist
If you’re not sure whether or when you need to see a dentist or orthodontist, examine the health of your teeth. If you should visit an orthodontic expert if:
- Your teeth are misaligned, overgrown, or crooked
- You have an overbite or underbite
- Need to straighten your teeth
- Expansion of the palate
- Your teeth are causing you discomfort and pain
- You have trouble chewing or speaking properly
If you fit into any of these categories, it’s usually a good idea to seek orthodontic treatment. An orthodontist will examine your case and determine the finest methods to improve your teeth when you visit him or her. It’s essential to note that not all orthodontic treatments and appliances are covered by insurance. You should check with your insurance company to see what is covered and what is not.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist for the first time no later than the age of seven. While your child’s teeth appear straight, there may be underlying concerns that only an orthodontist can see. If you’re looking into orthodontic treatment as an adult, you may schedule an appointment whenever it’s convenient for you.
If none of those problems apply to you, you may just need basic dental care. The following are some reasons to visit a dentist:
- Routine check-up and teeth cleaning
- You believe you have a cavity, tooth decay, or the early stages of gum disease
- You want to maintain the health of your teeth and gums
- You’re concerned about the state of your teeth and gums
- Routine oral hygiene
- Dental emergencies
- Periodontal disease
You should first determine your personal objectives and dental needs in order to decide whether you need to see an orthodontist or a general dentist for your oral care. Both may assist you in maintaining good oral health.
If you’re concerned about your dental health, a good place to start is with Cross Dentistry. We can help you get started on the path to a healthy, happy smile.