What’s The Difference Between A Dentist And An Orthodontist?

The Difference Between a General Dentist and an Orthodontist

While general dentists and orthodontists both work to improve the oral health of the patients they serve, there is a distinct difference between a general dentist and an orthodontist.
Because we understand that many people wonder what the difference is between a general dentist and an orthodontist, we’d like to explain what differentiates the two.

General Dentist

A general dentist is a healthcare practitioner who specializes in diagnosing, preventing and treating diseases and conditions of the oral cavity. In order to become a licensed dentist, one must successfully complete an accredited dental school curriculum in order to earn a dental degree.


An orthodontist is a healthcare practitioner who like a dentist, has earned his or her dental degree. But this professional has gone on to spend an additional two to three years in an advanced, intensive educational program to become certified in the science of facial growth and tooth movement from an accredited dental school.

General Dentists Refer Patients to Orthodontists

A general dentist is similar to your family doctor in that he or she is great for checkups and routine dental treatment like filling cavities, treating gum disease, performing extractions, cleaning teeth and other procedures not requiring a specialist. When the typical general dentist recognizes a problem with tooth or jaw alignment, he or she will refer the patient to an orthodontist who specializes in correcting these types of problems.

Many dentists today advertise that they offer orthodontic treatment, which they can do so legally. However, a general dentist who offers orthodontic treatment does not specialize in orthodontics as he or she has simply completed some basic orthodontic training to learn how to straighten teeth using braces. It is much better to see a certified orthodontist when you or your child has misaligned teeth as you will receive the best possible outcome once the problem has been properly diagnosed and treated.

Orthodontists are Dental Specialists Who Only Practice Orthodontics

In a nutshell, the difference between a general dentist and an orthodontist comes down to experience and expertise. If you were told you need heart surgery, you would most likely choose a cardiologist to perform the procedure rather than your family doctor. This is why you should choose an orthodontist to straighten your teeth as this dental specialist limits his or her practice to moving teeth and has the special knowledge and skills necessary to do this in the most effective and efficient manner.