You probably wouldn’t trust your general medical doctor to perform a complicated surgery and with good reason. Family doctors are not trained in most surgical procedures, as this education is obtained through years of extra residencies and on-the-job work in surgical facilities. The same is also true for dental practitioners.

Dentists simply treat their patients for oral health, while orthodontists go through two to three years of specialized training after leaving dental school. Deciding whom to call can be tough unless you’re in-the-know, so the following will help you decide which professional you should contact if you find yourself in need of serious dental work.
orthodontist checking female's braces

The Limits of Dentistry

Much like your family doctor, a general dentist will help you protect and care for your oral health. They are able to take x-rays, install fillings for cavities, and perform root canals. Many dentists will also offer treatments including gum care, sealants, teeth whitening, veneers, and crown and bridgework.

However, dentists only focus on the teeth, nerves, gums, and jaw. For this reason, if you so need it, reputable dentists will refer you to an orthodontist in your area instead of trying to do the work themselves. They simply are not trained in the corrective procedures associated with the more cosmetic work done by orthodontists.

The Specialties of Orthodontics

Orthodontists may provide the same oral health checkups and treatments as dentists, but this is not always the case. While seeing an orthodontist, you may still need the services of your regular dentist, but that will be limited to regular cleaning, checkups, and necessary health-related treatments.

Orthodontists focus more on corrective work than general overall oral health. If you have crooked or crowded teeth or a misaligned jaw, then an orthodontist is going to be your best bet for repair. These specialized practitioners are able to provide you with Invisalign trays, braces, headgear, and retainers. Most will even help correct temporomandibular disorders.

As for Children

Quite often, orthodontists treat both children and adults. However, you’ll need to check with their offices to be sure. Some orthodontists focus on one age group or the other and one that treats only children might be the best choice in your child’s case as they very well know how a child’s mouth and jaw will grow over time.

In cases of pediatric dental health, a good dentist will provide frequent cleanings, checkups, and treatments upon the first sign of tooth eruption. Usually, cosmetic problems are not apparent until after age 7, and a reliable dentist will refer the child out as soon as issues become evident.

While dentists and orthodontists may attend the same schools and receive the same doctorates, in the beginning, the latter is much more prepared and licensed, to do much more for their patients. With more education and training, orthodontists will give your teeth and jaw the repairs necessary to correct your smile in ways that those working in general dentistry cannot. So, if you suffer from more than oral health problems, be sure to seek the services of a well-renowned orthodontist in your area and you will surely be pleased with the results.