Orthodontist vs. Dentist: Who Should You See?

General dentists and orthodontists are oral health professionals. A general dentist is primarily focused on basic oral health care, while an orthodontist is focused on resolving alignment issues.

Diamond Dental offers a variety of services including general, restorative, cosmetic, and orthodontics. We work with patients of all ages to help them create their perfect smile. In this article, we’ll explore the primary differences between a general dentist and an orthodontist.

What do Dentists do?

A general dentist is a primary dental care provider who offers a wide range of dental services to patients of all ages. These professionals are often the first point of contact for individuals seeking routine dental care and are trained to diagnose and treat various oral health issues. General dentists play a crucial role in preventive care, educating patients about proper oral hygiene practices, and addressing common dental problems.

What services do they offer?

A general dentist offers a wide range of services, including:

  • Preventive Care
  • Routine Examinations
  • Dental Cleanings
  • Treatment of Common Dental Issues
  • X-rays and Diagnostic Procedures
  • Restorative Dentistry
  • Orthodontic Consultations
  • Patient Education
  • Emergency Dental Care

What do Orthodontists do?

Orthodontists are dental specialists who focus on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities, particularly those related to misaligned teeth and jaws. Their primary goal is to help patients achieve a proper bite and an aesthetically pleasing smile.

What services do they offer?

Orthodontists offer the following services:

  • Orthodontic Consultations
  • Treatment of Malocclusions
  • Braces
  • Clear Aligners
  • Retainers
  • Orthodontic Appliances
  • Jaw Surgery (Orthognathic Surgery)

When to See a Dentist

According to the American Dental Association, you should visit the dentist at least every 6 months for an exam and cleaning. If you have concerns between these visits, it’s important to schedule an appointment as soon as possible to prevent the issue from escalating.

When to See an Orthodontist

You should schedule an appointment with an orthodontist if you have concerns about the alignment of your teeth. This includes gaps between teeth, crowding, difficulties chewing or speaking, and other issues.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist




Scope of Practice

General oral health, preventive care, fillings, extractions, etc.

Specializes in correcting misalignments, bite issues, and jaw problems. May also offer general dental services.

Training and Education

Graduated from dental school (4 years) and may have additional training in specific areas.

Completed dental school and an additional 2-3 years of specialized orthodontic training.

Services Offered

General dental services, routine check-ups, cleanings, fillings, extractions, etc.

Orthodontic treatments such as braces, aligners, retainers, and corrective jaw surgeries. May also offer some general dental services.

Orthodontic Expertise

Limited to basic orthodontic evaluations and may provide basic orthodontic treatments.

Specialized in orthodontic diagnosis, treatment planning, and a wide range of orthodontic procedures.

Age Group Specialization

Treats patients of all ages, including children, adults, and seniors.

Specializes in treating children, teenagers, and adults for orthodontic issues. May not focus on general dentistry for very young children.

Emergency Dental Care

Often provides emergency dental care, including toothaches and minor dental injuries.

May handle orthodontic emergencies but may refer general dental emergencies to a dentist.

Cost of Services

Generally, fees for routine dental services are common and may vary.

Orthodontic treatments can be more specialized and may involve higher costs. Check if insurance covers orthodontic procedures.

Referral for Specialized Care

Refers patients to specialists for complex dental issues or oral surgery.

May refer patients to dentists for certain general dental procedures outside the scope of orthodontics.

Frequency of Appointments

Regular check-ups every 6 months and as needed for specific issues.

Initial consultations, periodic adjustments (usually every 4-8 weeks during orthodontic treatment), and follow-up appointments.

Overall Oral Health Focus

Emphasizes overall oral health, preventive care, and treatment of common dental issues.

Focuses on correcting specific orthodontic problems, enhancing tooth alignment, and improving oral function.

Schedule Your Visit with Diamond Dental Today

Whether you need general dentistry, cosmetic, restorative, or orthodontic services, the team at Diamond Dental can help. We work with patients of all ages to help them create their perfect smile. Schedule your visit with us today to see what we can do for you.

We work with many insurance providers and will contact you to determine your coverage. If you do not have insurance or your insurance does not cover a particular procedure, we offer financing options to help you manage your costs.

Orthodontist vs. Dentist FAQs

Diamond Dental is a one-stop-shop offering a variety of dental services including general dentistry and orthodontics. If you have questions, the team will be happy to address them to help you understand these options. Below are a few of the most popular questions we hear:

Dentists and orthodontists are both oral healthcare professionals, but they have different areas of focus and provide distinct types of services.

A dentist is a general oral healthcare provider who diagnoses and treats a wide range of dental issues, providing services such as cleanings, fillings, extractions, and general oral healthcare for patients of all ages.

An orthodontist is a specialist who focuses specifically on the alignment of teeth and jaws. They specialize in correcting issues like misaligned teeth, malocclusions, and bite problems using braces, aligners, and other orthodontic appliances. Orthodontists undergo additional education and training beyond dental school to become experts in orthodontics.

Yes, it is common for a general dentist to refer a patient to an orthodontist when orthodontic treatment is needed. General dentists are trained to provide a wide range of dental services, but orthodontics is a specialized field that focuses specifically on the alignment of teeth and jaws. When a patient has issues related to tooth misalignment, bite problems, or other orthodontic concerns, a general dentist may recognize the need for specialized orthodontic care and make a referral to an orthodontist.

Orthodontists typically do not provide routine dental cleanings as part of their specialized orthodontic practice. Dental cleanings are generally performed by dental hygienists or general dentists during regular dental check-ups. However, orthodontists do play an important role in maintaining oral health during orthodontic treatment.

For orthodontic treatments such as braces, it is generally better to see an orthodontist. While both dentists and orthodontists receive training in dental school, orthodontists undergo additional specialized training in orthodontics after completing their dental degree. This extra training equips them with the expertise to diagnose, prevent, and correct misalignments of the teeth and jaws.

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