Why is a Dentist Not an Orthodontist?

A lot of people use the terms “dentist” and “orthodontist” interchangeably – but did you know that the two names, in fact, refer to very different professions? Nease and Higginbotham Orthodontics wants to help you learn how to distinguish between the two fields, and learn a few things about your own dental needs along the way! Firstly, let’s take a look at the two and see how they differ.

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UPDATED 31 – 01 – 18

What Is a Dentist?

What makes up a dentist? It’s a more difficult question than it may sound – a dentist is more than just a doctor who works on teeth! A dentist studies several areas of general medicine with oral issues, including:

  • tooth decay
  • gum disease
  • tooth whitening
  • crowns
  • bridges
  • veneers
  • root canals

A dentist, therefore, has worked in several different areas of study. Only some of which have to do with the routine checkup and cleaning procedures you’re probably used to. They’re very experienced and well trained in several areas of oral medicine and are great to visit if you have general concerns or issues with your teeth.

One area that dentists don’t work with as much as orthodontists, though, is issues relating to tooth alignment. While some dentists learn the basics of correcting tooth alignment, that education is optional and much less in-depth than that of orthodontists. Orthodontists receive more specialized training, while dentists deal in more general areas, similar to how a doctor and a surgeon both receive a doctor’s education, but the surgeon continues on with specialized work.

And just like a doctor and a surgeon, a dentist is not inherently better or worse than orthodontists. They’re two different career paths and two different sets of choices, and they’re both highly important for the dental health of the community!

That is the basic area that dentists learn to cover in their education – but what about orthodontists? What separates them from the education and experience of a dentist?

What Are Orthodontists?

Orthodontists specialize in areas that dentists don’t study, first of all – orthodontists go through all the normal dental school education, then focus their training on misaligned or crowded teeth, overbite, underbite, and other jaw problems. Tooth correction through Invisalign and braces are both areas of orthodontic study rather than general dentist studies and require orthodontists like the team at Nease and Higginbotham to perform correctly.

Orthodontists do, however, still go through the same education that a dentist receives. They must earn their degree with the same procedure as a dentist, ensuring that the patient receives a high quality of care from either profession.

The difference is that orthodontists stay in school for a few extra years. Helping them receive extra training in a few different specialty areas of dental health. Orthodontists are the dental workers of choice in issues relating to tooth alignment and structure, as their extra education and experience qualify them more so than dentists to handle those issues.

What kind of differences are there in the education processes of dentists and orthodontists? It’s not such a difficult concept to grasp – let’s take a look!

What Kind of Education Do They Receive?

Dentists and orthodontists are both highly qualified and highly educated medical professionals, but different degrees of schooling are required in the two cases. Both dentists and orthodontists receive a D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine), which teaches the general history, theory, and practice of dentistry. A dentist’s education can stop there and they will still be perfectly qualified to run their practice, but an orthodontist’s education must continue after that.

In order to become an orthodontist, one must continue school for two to three years after finishing their standard dental education. Admission and residency programs are highly selective for orthodontists. Meaning that there tend to be much fewer practicing orthodontists than there are practicing dentists at any given time or location. In their extra schooling, orthodontists learn the particulars of their field of study. Working much more closely with issues of tooth alignment and jaw problems than their dentist counterparts do.

Should I Seek Out an Orthodontist or a Dentist?

That depends on what exactly you’re looking for! Braces and Invisalign tooth alignment structures are much better left to orthodontists than they are to dentists. The increased training and experience of the orthodontists’ education leaves them as the clear choice when it comes to tooth alignment procedures. The team at Nease and Higginbotham Orthodontics will be happy to help you with your tooth alignment issues and questions, and you can rest assured that you’ll be in good hands throughout the process!

Seeking out dentists can work if you’re looking for a more generalized dental care routine. For braces or Invisalign procedures, you’re better off seeking the expertise of orthodontists and their extended schooling.

Orthodontists for You!

Accordingly, you and your family will be extremely pleased with the quality of care and professional service we offer at Nease and Higginbotham. Our team is made up of only the finest customer service representatives and orthodontists, like Dr. Nease; not only will you be able to take advantage of the practical experience of our seasoned orthodontists, but you’ll also be able to know and understand how a visit to our practice differs from a standard visit to a dentist’s office!

Finally, we’re looking forward to working with you and answering any questions you may have along the way. We know that visiting orthodontists is a scary experience for your children (and adults too at times!). Thus, we want to make sure your experience is a pleasant one and that you understand what we’re doing every step of the way.

Stop by and set up an appointment today and walk away with a smile!

Spartanburg Office
2455 E. Main Street
Spartanburg, SC 29307
Phone: (864) 579-7700


Why is a Dentist Not an Orthodontist?


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