What is the Difference Between an Orthodontist and a Dentist?

What is the Difference Between an Orthodontist and a Dentist?

Most people understand the importance of taking care of your teeth in order to maintain excellent oral, and overall, health. As a result, many visit a dentist regularly to get a cleaning, but fewer understand what an Orthodontist Santa Maria can do for them. Learn more about the differences between dentists and orthodontists below. 


After obtaining an undergraduate degree, a prospective dentist will continue on to four years of dental school and receive a doctorate in dentistry. Dentists focus more on promoting proper oral hygiene, and they help treat cavities, gum disease, and chipped or broken teeth. 

Most people should see a dentist every six months to receive a thorough cleaning and exam. Dentists will check for tooth and gum issues, as well as other diseases of the mouth, like oral cancer. If you notice any of the following issues, you should make an appointment with your local dentist:

  • Chronic bad breath
  • Ulcers in or around the mouth
  • Loose or painful teeth
  • Swelling of face or cheeks
  • Clicking of the jaw
  • Chronic dry mouth
  • Tooth sensitivity

In healthcare, prevention is always the best option, and visiting a dentist regularly can allow them to identify potential issues before you even notice them. 

Many people avoid visiting the dentist due to fears about pain, but dental technology has never been more advanced and gentle, and many procedures can now be done pain free. 


Every orthodontist is a dentist, but not every dentist is an orthodontist. After graduating from dentistry school, a prospective orthodontist can opt to undergo further training, a two or three year residency, to focus on the alignment of teeth. 

Orthodontists understand the fundamentals of oral hygiene and other mouth problems, and they also have a firm grasp on the intricacies of tooth alignment and jaw problems. 

Most people have either had some type of braces themselves or know someone that has. Orthodontists use braces, plastic aligners, and even oral or jaw surgery to realign teeth to make them look straighter and less likely to get cavities and decay. These procedures can also help correct jaw issues. 

Usually, those who see an orthodontist are referred by their dentist or physician, but you can also make an appointment to see a local orthodontist if you have any of the following concerns:

  • Over or underbite
  • Chronic jaw pain
  • Flared teeth
  • Excessive spacing

It is actually recommended by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) for parents to take their kids to see an orthodontist by the time they turn seven. This can help ensure that your child’s teeth are growing normally, and it allows their orthodontist to correct any problems early on to prevent more pain and costs down the line. 

In Conclusion

Although many people are initially confused about the difference between orthodontists and dentists, it’s actually quite straightforward once you dig into the details. Generally, most common dental issues can be solved with help from a dentist, though it is always helpful to ask ahead of time if you aren’t sure who to see. 

Christie Lewis
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