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The Difference Between an Orthodontist & Dentist

Are you wondering about the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist? Here, our North York dentist and orthodontist explain.

What is an Orthodontist?

Orthodontists specialize in dental development and facial growth, including alignment of the jaw and teeth. An orthodontist's most important task is to identify issues with your mouth and teeth. 

These dental professionals and qualified to provide treatments for both moderate and complex orthodontic issues. The treatment options they are qualified to offer include retainers, traditional metal braces, and clear aligners. In more extreme cases, patients may need a palate expander in order to widen their upper jaw to create space for their teeth.  Patients with severely misaligned teeth may also need to use headgear in order to pull front teeth back while slowing the growth of the upper jaw. 

While some dentists are able to provide orthodontic treatments for misalignments ranging from mild to moderate, they will not generally treat complex cases and will only be able to offer a limited array of treatment options.

Qualifications & Training

The Canadian Dental Association recognizes nine dental specialties, including orthodontics. To become a dentist, one must graduate dental school. Some graduates will then go on to practice as dentists immediately. We call these general dentists.

Orthodontists will take more training after graduating from dental school. They will complete an accredited advanced education program in orthodontics, then attain a specialty designation from the provincial dental regulatory authority in their province.

What are the differences in practice between orthodontics & dentistry?

While your general dentist is responsible for your routine dental health care needs, your orthodontist is responsible for all of your specific orthodontic needs. 

A dentist can provide routine cleanings, exams, restorations, and treatments like bridges, crowns, fillings and root canals

Most orthodontists will not provide this routine or restorative care. Instead, they focus on helping to straighten their patients' teeth and improve the alignment of their jaw.

Why should I get orthodontic treatment?

While orthodontics can help improve the look of your smile, there can also be many benefits for your oral health.

A bad bite can make chewing and speaking challenging or even cause uneven wear and tear on your teeth. Grinding and clenching your teeth may also cause issues down the road. Teeth that are crowded, misaligned or overlapping with one another may also be difficult to clean properly, causing gum disease, tooth decay and potentially even the loss of teeth altogether.

Orthodontic issues may also have consequences for your overall physical health, such as headaches or earaches. 

Depending on the patient's condition, an orthodontist can effectively diagnose the issue and may even be able to correct it with early intervention. He or she may also develop a customized orthodontic treatment program involving braces, a retainer, clear aligners or other measures. Orthodontists can also treat patients of any age, and more adults are choosing to undergo orthodontic treatment today in an effort to help straighten their teeth. 

An orthodontist can treat malocclusions or misalignments, and help you achieve a healthier, straighter and more symmetrical smile. Correctly aligned teeth can contribute to improved oral health, as they may be easier to brush, floss and clean.

Do you have questions about how an orthodontist can help you? Contact our North York orthodontists today.

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