If you are wondering whether to visit a dentist or an orthodontist to fix your oral health problems, you’re not alone. A lot of people know that an orthodontist and a dentist are highly skilled professionals and can help with our problems, but this is as far as it goes.
There are a few factors that influence if patients seek orthodontic care for their children and for themselves and whether they seek this care from general dentists or from orthodontists (Chambers DW & Zitterkopf JG, 2019).
Dentist vs orthodontist
When individuals need tooth services, often when they move to a new area or perhaps even for the first time, they often ponder the question of do you need an orthodontist vs dentist? So what is the difference between dentist and orthodontist? And is that difference significant enough that in the dentist vs orthodontist matchup you should pick one over the other?
Research shows that dental care for children was most often started after being recommended by a dentist and the expected treatment would be with braces (Chambers DW & Zitterkopf JG, 2019). This is because many don’t realize that there are significant differences between the two specialists.
So what is the difference between dentist and orthodontist?
Let’s start off with what they both have in common. Both dental and orthodontic offices have many years of academic dental education for their staff. This is something that some individuals are surprised to learn as many people think that the two fields must be totally different but the fact of the matter is that orthodontists and dentists both actually go through similar education and many times from the same schools.
A dentist is able to help fill cavities, address nerve pain, treat oral diseases, and is good for general dental work for all ages. This means that, in theory, a dentist will be a perfect pick for an entire family to work with as a general dentist should have some experience in pediatric dentistry as well as adult dentistry. It is due to this skill and education level that dentists are excellent picks for most problems that individuals might face with their teeth, mouth and gums.
At the very least your general dentist is a perfect place to start as the vast majority of general dentists are fully capable of helping to diagnose and treat a wide variety of oral ailments. Even if they are not able to treat the issue, they may be able to diagnose what is wrong and refer you to a specialist for more specific work.
Difference between orthodontist and dentist
This of course leads us to orthodontists and their differences when compared to dentists. Orthodontists are dentists but with an additional certification or two. That’s a big reason why so many of them may go through the same programs, go to the same schools, and even have the same dental certificates.
However, the difference lies in what happens after; while a dental student may go through eight years of post-secondary education, an orthodontist will likely go for an additional three more. Of course, the specifics may vary by a few years depending on the type of program, certification, school, and individual work that you do; however, generally speaking an orthodontist will spend an extra three years getting their orthodontic certification. That’s right – they spend 11 years getting their education before they ever begin their orthodontic work!
This is a huge benefit for their specialized field because whereas general dentists are good at helping treat and diagnose issues relating to your teeth and mouth such as oral diseases, orthodontists are actually able to help adjust the structure of your teeth and jaw itself with the goal of helping to correct bite problems, deformities, major injuries, or even something like help give you a straighter smile.
Orthodontists can even come in subspecialties such as pediatric orthodontists which are orthodontists who got specific training to work helping treat deformities, injuries, or fix bite issues in young children. This is a huge advantage over a more general dentist who is not only not qualified to be able to do this kind of advanced work but also is not certified in how to do it with children. While all dentists and dental programs do include sections on children’s dentistry, only a pediatric orthodontist will be qualified to properly work with, diagnose, and treat severe teeth issues that may occur in children and can impact the bite or even the straightness of the smile.
Dentist vs orthodontist
This is one reason that while many individuals may start by visiting their local dental office, that dentist office may then refer an individual or a family over to an orthodontic office for more specialized work. This can be especially true in case of an emergency. The fact of the matter is that although some dental offices are capable of handling certain kinds of dental disease, other types of dental emergencies may require orthodontic assistance.
This is why it’s important that you talk with your dental office about whether they offer emergency services and which orthodontic office they partner with in case of something dire. Orthodontists and dentists are not in competition with each other and indeed are complementary skill-sets. Some even share an office to make it easier for you.
The work orthodontists do can help improve the straightness of a bite or correct an issue which will lead oftentimes to fewer cavities and fewer problems that a dentist has to address later.
That’s why it is important that both professions educate patients about their fields.
For example, it is important that orthodontists focus on educating potential patients about their role in the functional health features of orthodontic treatment for malocclusions and other orthodontic specific needs (Chambers DW & Zitterkopf JG, 2019).
What is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?
A major difference, and one that everybody should be aware of, is that there is a difference in the types of insurance that these individuals will often accept. While many generous work plans may include healthcare or dental insurance for their clients, few include orthodontic insurance.
Yes! There is an actual difference. Dental insurance can sometimes be deceptive for individuals who think that it covers everything that happens in the mouth but the truth of the matter is that dental insurance and orthodontic insurance are two separate things. If you are banking on your dental insurance to be able to fix an orthodontic problem later down the line and pay for it, you may be in for a bit of a shock when your dental insurance company declines by saying that this is a orthodontic insurance claim and unfortunately you do not have orthodontic insurance.
This is why it’s doubly important to make sure that you check what insurance coverage you have before visiting clinics and make sure that they will actually be able to meet your needs. Both dental insurance and orthodontic insurance are not overly expensive but getting caught flat-footed with a large bill can be annoying when you thought you had it sorted out.
However, even if you have no insurance of any kind, many orthodontic and dental offices will work with you to help offer affordable services to individuals in need. There are many quality dental and orthodontic offices like Ivanov Orthodontics that accept Medicaid insurance, credit cards, cash, and in some cases payment plans. These payment plans can be a huge benefit to families who are simply unable to pay for dental care. By breaking a single large payment up into smaller payments, these offices are able to ensure that you get the treatment you need in a timely fashion without delay.
If you already have a dental or orthodontic office that you like, talk with them about what other offices they recommend in case the need may arise in the future and you can rest secure that your dental and orthodontic future is safe and sound.
Chambers, D. W., & Zitterkopf, J. G. (2019). How people make decisions about whether or not to seek orthodontic care: Upstream in the treatment chain. American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics: official publication of the American Association of Orthodontists, its constituent societies, and the American Board of Orthodontics, 155(6), 826–831. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajodo.2018.07.019
IVANOV Orthodontic Experts, 12866 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami, FL 33181
Call us at (786) 540-1919 to schedule a free orthodontic exam.
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