Girl in a jacket

Are you puzzled by the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist? Although both are crucial in maintaining oral health, they have distinctive roles. This comprehensive guide will demystify their differences in terms of responsibilities, education, training, and scope of practice.

Stick around to gain clarity on which dental professional is best suited for your specific needs!

Key Takeaways

Dentists focus on overall oral health, treating common dental issues like cavities and gum disease.

Orthodontists specialize in aligning teeth and jaws to improve bite and create a straighter smile.

Dentists undergo four years of dental school, while orthodontists have an additional two to three years of specialized training.

Dentists offer a range of treatments including cleanings, fillings, root canals, extractions, crowns, bridges, dentures and more.

Orthodontists provide specialized treatments such as braces, Invisalign aligners, retainers, space maintainers and jaw surgery.

The Roles of Dentists and Orthodontists

Girl in a jacket

Dentists focus on overall oral health, including diagnosing and treating common dental issues such as cavities and gum disease. Orthodontists, on the other hand, specialize in aligning teeth and jaws to improve bite and create a straighter smile.

What a Dentist Does

A dentist serves as the primary defender of your overall oral health. They perform regular check-ups, clean and fill cavities, repair fractured teeth, and even treat gum diseases such as gingivitis.

Dentists extract damaged or decayed teeth and provide replacements using crowns or bridges. Through X-rays, they can diagnose potential issues and begin to devise a proper treatment plan.

Furthermore, dentists play a crucial role in promoting oral health education—informing patients about effective brushing techniques, flossing practices, diet impacts on dental health, and more.

Their area of expertise extends beyond just cleaning teeth; it encompasses the entire mouth's preventative care aspects to ensure you maintain good oral hygiene.

What an Orthodontist Does

Orthodontists are specialists in the field of dentistry who focus on correcting teeth and jaw alignment issues. After completing four years of dental school, they undergo an additional two to three years of advanced education to gain expertise in orthodontics.

Using appliances such as braces and Invisalign, a product that Glow Orthodontics is particularly noted for, they can straighten crooked teeth and correct improper bites.

Their work involves diagnosing oral conditions related to misaligned teeth and planning appropriate treatments to improve the appearance and functionality of their patients' smiles.

They also design retainers which help maintain the position of straightened teeth ensuring long-term results from orthodontic treatment. Knowing when you need an orthodontist instead of a dentist could save time during your path towards perfecting your smile.

Education and Training Differences

Girl in a jacket

Dentists must complete four years of dental school to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree.

Educational Requirements for Dentists

Dentists undergo extensive educational training before earning their credentials. The journey typically begins with a bachelor's degree, often in a science-related field. Afterward, they take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) to qualify for dental school.

Becoming a dentist requires four years of rigorous study in dental school. This period allows students to delve into biology, physiology and anatomy courses while also gaining practical experience.

The first two years are primarily devoted to classroom and laboratory studies. However, the last two years mainly involve supervised practice where budding dentists gain hands-on experience treating patients under seasoned professionals' guidance.

Upon successful completion of dental school, candidates must pass National Board Dental Examinations to secure licensure and start practicing professionally as general dentists.

Educational Requirements for Orthodontists

Orthodontists undergo an additional two to three years of specialized training compared to dentists. After completing four years of dental school, orthodontists continue their education with a focus on orthodontic treatments such as braces and retainers.

This extra training gives them the expertise needed to diagnose, prevent, and correct teeth and jaw alignment issues. With their in-depth knowledge and skills, orthodontists are able to provide specialized care for straightening teeth and correcting malocclusions.

Differences in Scope of Practice

Dentists primarily focus on general oral health and treat various dental conditions such as tooth decay, gum disease, and cavities. Orthodontists, on the other hand, specialize in aligning teeth and jaws using braces or Invisalign to correct bite issues and improve the aesthetics of one's smile.

Dental Treatments Offered by Dentists

Dentists provide a range of dental treatments to ensure good oral health. Here are some common dental treatments offered by dentists:

1.Dental Cleanings: Regular cleanings to remove plaque, tartar, and stains from teeth.

2.Fillings: Restoring decayed teeth with materials like amalgam or composite resin.

3.Root Canals: Treating infected or damaged tooth pulp to save the tooth.

4.Extractions: Removing severely damaged or infected teeth that cannot be saved.

5.Crowns: Placing caps over damaged or weakened teeth to restore their strength and appearance.

6.Bridges: Filling gaps from missing teeth by anchoring artificial teeth to neighboring natural teeth.

7.Dentures: Replacing missing teeth with removable prosthetic devices.

8.Teeth Whitening: Procedures to lighten and brighten discolored or stained teeth.

9.Gum Treatments: Treating gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis.

10.Oral Examinations: Assessing overall oral health, identifying issues, and creating treatment plans.

Orthodontic Treatments Offered by Orthodontists

Orthodontists offer a range of specialized treatments designed to correct the alignment and positioning of teeth and jaws. These treatments include:

1.Braces: Orthodontists are experts in designing and applying braces, which are metal or ceramic brackets attached to the teeth and connected by wires. Braces gradually shift the teeth into proper alignment.

2.Invisalign: This is a popular alternative to braces, where clear aligners are used to straighten teeth instead of traditional metal brackets. Orthodontists can create custom-made Invisalign trays that are changed every few weeks to gradually move the teeth.

3.Retainers: After orthodontic treatment, retainers help maintain the new position of the teeth. Orthodontists provide patients with different types of retainers, such as removable or fixed ones, depending on their needs.

4.Space maintainers: If a child loses a tooth prematurely, orthodontists can place space maintainers to ensure that adequate space is preserved for permanent teeth to erupt properly.

5.Jaw surgery: In severe cases of misalignment or jaw irregularities, orthodontists may work in conjunction with oral surgeons to perform corrective jaw surgery.

6.Orthopedic appliances: Orthodontists use these devices to modify bone growth and positioning in younger patients with developing jaws.

7.Expansion appliances: These devices help widen dental arches, creating more space for crowded or misaligned teeth before orthodontic treatment.

Choosing the Right Dental Professional for Your Needs

To determine whether to see a dentist or an orthodontist, consider the type of treatment needed and consult with the appropriate professional for personalized care.

When to See a Dentist

Dentists play a crucial role in maintaining good oral health for people of all ages. It is recommended to see a dentist regularly, at least every six months, for routine check-ups and cleanings.

These visits allow dentists to detect any potential issues early on and prevent them from developing into more serious problems. Additionally, if you experience tooth pain or notice any changes in your oral health such as bleeding gums or persistent bad breath, it's important to schedule an appointment with a dentist right away.

Dentists are trained to diagnose and treat various dental conditions, including cavities, gum disease, and impacted wisdom teeth. By seeking regular dental care, you can ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy and avoid more extensive treatments down the road.

When to See an Orthodontist

If you live in Langley, BC & have crooked or misaligned teeth, it may be time to see an orthodontist. Orthodontists specialize in diagnosing and correcting dental issues related to the positioning of your teeth and jaws.

They focus on straightening teeth and fixing malocclusions, which are problems with how your upper and lower teeth meet when you bite. If you're experiencing any discomfort or self-consciousness due to the appearance of your smile, or if you have difficulty chewing or speaking properly, it's a good idea to schedule a consultation with an orthodontist.

They can assess the condition of your teeth and recommend appropriate treatment options such as braces or Invisalign aligners to help improve your oral health and enhance your smile.

Click Here for a Langley Orthodontist


In conclusion, understanding the differences between orthodontists and dentists is essential for making informed decisions about your oral health. Orthodontists specialize in straightening teeth and correcting malocclusions, while dentists provide a wide range of dental care services for all ages.

By choosing the right dental professional based on your specific needs, you can ensure that you receive the appropriate treatment to achieve optimal oral health.


1. What is a Langley Orthodontist?

A Langley Orthodontist is a dental specialist based in Langley, who focuses on aligning teeth and jaws to improve a patient's smile and oral health.

2. How does an orthodontist differ from a dentist?

While both dentists and orthodontists work on improving oral health, the primary difference lies in their areas of focus. Dentists cover general oral healthcare while orthodontists specialize in correcting bites, occlusion, and straightness of teeth.

3. Can my family dentist also be an Orthodontist?

Generally not; becoming a family orthodontist requires additional years of specialized training beyond dentistry school, though some dental practices have both professionals in one place for convenience.

4. When should I see an Orthodontist instead of my regular Dentist?

You should see an orthodontist if you have issues with the alignment of your teeth or jaw that cannot be solved by standard dental care from your regular dentist.

Author's Bio: 

I am a SEO expert