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Dentist Vs. Orthodontist For Braces

Posted on January 31, 2018

If you’re considering braces, you may be wondering if this is something your dentist can do, or if you’ll need an orthodontist. Patients often question the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist. In fact, some people mistakenly assume the two are interchangeable. While there are many similarities, there are also significant differences. When you’re looking into orthodontic treatment such as braces, it’s important to understand what orthodontists like Dr. Bret have to offer that general dentists don’t. We’ve put together this blog, so you can learn more about those differences.

Similarities and difference

Orthodontists and dentists deal with many of the same dental issues, but where they differ is in their method of care.

Dentists address general dental problems like tooth decay and gum disease, so it could be said that they specialize in issues with the teeth and gums. Dentists focus on maintaining their patients’ good oral hygiene and perform regular cleanings every six months.  There are dentists who specialize in a particular type of oral care. A periodontist, for example, is a specialist who treats the gums and the bones beneath the teeth.

Orthodontists are dentists who have decided to expand their education by specializing in the alignment of teeth. They spend a lot time studying the jaw and how teeth move and address dental issues with tooth and jaw alignment. They deal most often with issues regarding bite, called malocclusions. Some of the most common problems treated are:

  • overbite
  • underbite
  • crowded teeth
  • crossbite
  • improperly spaced teeth

Education and training

stack of books

Orthodontists and dentists both begin their careers by graduating from dental school. However, only those students in the top of their dental class will be accepted into an orthodontics residency program because of its extremely competitive nature. Once accepted, students will undergo an additional two to three years of full-time training concentrating on orthodontia. This includes a focus on braces, bite problems, and straightening teeth. To put it simply, orthodontists are essentially dentists who have specialized, additional training in orthodontics.

Most general dentists will not have this kind of rigorous supplementary training, although there are few who do. Only after a dentist has successfully completed this residency program may they refer to themselves as an orthodontist.

Dr. Bret earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree (DDS) and Master of Science in Orthodontics (MS) from the University of Michigan. He has been practicing orthodontics in the Spokane Valley since 2009. Dr. Bret is certified by the American Board of Orthodontics and is a member of the American Association of Orthodontics and a number of other professional organizations.

Can a general dentist straighten teeth?

The short answer is, yes, they can.  However, the dentist providing care must be committed to taking continuing education seminars and acquiring experience in the subject. Unfortunately, many workshops and seminars which qualify lack the kind of rigorous examinations and testing that would truly gauge if the material was mastered.

Should you choose a dentist or an orthodontist for braces treatment?

While the choice of a treatment provider always belongs to the patient, it is worth remembering that an orthodontist will be focused solely on orthodontic issues. Some general dentists will have a fair amount of orthodontic experience; however, the best way to ensure that you’re getting the optimal care you deserve is by receiving treatment from someone who specializes in what you need. It carries the least risk, and you are assured that your orthodontist is well versed in all the new treatments, as well as the older ones that might be a good fit for you.

Orthodontists have the experience and training to deal with whatever issue might arise. Additionally, orthodontists focus on long-term care plans that are individualized for each patient’s unique needs. These plans ensure you finish the process with the healthiest smile possible.

Summing it up

Dr. Bret with a patient

Here’s what we learned about the difference and similarities between orthodontists and dentists:

  • Both are dentists who specialize in oral care.
  • All orthodontists are dentists; however, only about 10% of dentists are orthodontists.
  • Orthodontists complete an additional two or three years of training in a competitive orthodontics residency program.
  • Dentists will often refer their patients to an orthodontist if there are alignment problems or a bite abnormality.

Orthodontists focus exclusively on orthodontic care and treatment. As this is our only specialty, we spend a lot of time perfecting it! We perform teeth straightening procedures daily and stay up-to-date on all the latest best practices and technology, invest in the newest equipment, and are frequent participants and leaders in orthodontic classes, seminars, and workshops.

Because we specialize in one thing, we can offer the very best customized treatment to each and every patient. General dentists, who deal with a few issues, might be more inclined to use a one-size-fits-all approach.

Meeting you orthodontic needs with Bret Johnson Orthodontics

Bret Johnson Orthodontics employs a staff of experienced orthodontic professionals. Our staff is specially trained to provide outstanding orthodontic service to our patients. Our commitment to excellent service includes not only great orthodontic treatment, but also a warm, friendly office atmosphere. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your treatment, please do not hesitate to ask one of our knowledgeable team members. Our orthodontic professionals want you to experience the best in orthodontic care.

It is our privilege to be part of your life-changing journey to a beautiful smile!  Dr. Bret has two convenient orthodontic offices to serve patients in Spokane, WA and Colville, WA. Please contact our office to schedule a complimentary consultation!

Ready to start smiling today?