What's the Difference Between a Dentist and Orthodontist?

While dentists and orthodontists are both focused on improving your teeth and mouth, the two are quite different. In a sentence: a dentist’s primary focus is ensuring that your oral health is in tiptop shape, whereas an orthodontist focuses on straightening and aligning your teeth and jaw. Orthodontics is a branch under dentistry (and orthodontists have completed dental school), but the two should be viewed as complements to one another. 

What should I visit a dentist for? 

It’s advisable to visit a dentist twice a year for routine checkups and teeth cleanings. A dentist will evaluate your oral health and take necessary measures such as filling cavities, bonding cracked teeth, extracting teeth, implementing crowns or veneers, or sometimes whiten teeth. A general dentist can also look for indicators of gum disease and treat mild cases, or refer you to a periodontist

Because dentists focus heavily on oral health, visiting the dentist should be viewed as a non-negotiable part of tending to your health. Oral health contributes to the health of the rest of the body, or can sometimes indicate other health problems. Staying on top of oral cleanliness via routine teeth cleanings is one way to ensure the avoidance of cavities or other infections.

Dentists assist in preliminary orthodontic recommendations

Dentists also perform dental X rays to understand what’s happening within your mouth and how teeth are growing in or pressing against each other. Because of this insight, a dentist can tell you whether or not you would benefit from orthodontic care, especially for children as their adult teeth begin to come in.

Some indicators of misalignment are not immediately apparent to the untrained eye, so ask your dentist for their professional opinion. They will review your X rays with you. In most cases, your dentist can refer you to a good orthodontist in your area.

What should I visit an orthodontist for? 

In addition to two annual dentist visits for teeth cleaning and an oral health checkup, those who are interested in straightening or aligning their smiles should also visit an orthodontist. 

Orthodontists create treatment plans for braces and teeth alignment, treat any type of misaligned teeth or jaws, and install orthodontic gear to assist in this alignment (such as the braces, headgear, or palatal expanders).  

A dentist ensures that your teeth and your mouth are healthy, and an orthodontist helps with cosmetic procedures for alignment or can eradicate pain or discomfort if teeth are growing improperly. 

Together, orthodontists and dentists ensure that you have a winning smile, a healthy mouth, and clean teeth. At Rifkin Dental, we provide standard dental procedures such as teeth cleanings, filling, and extractions, but expand beyond what standard dental practices do to incorporate invisalign options for patients hoping for a straighter smile. We also offer advanced care in periodontics. 

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