When it comes to diagnosing and treating problems related to the alignment of the teeth and jaw, dentists are not experts. Orthodontists, on the other hand, have received specialized higher education that allows them to provide services that dentists cannot offer. They specialize in realigning teeth and jaws, and possess a deeper understanding of misalignments than dentists. While dentists can legally perform orthodontic treatments, they lack the expertise of an orthodontist.
However, some general dentists may also be orthodontists, which is beneficial for patients as they get the best of both worlds in one professional. Both orthodontists and dentists help improve oral health, but in different ways. Dentistry is a broad medical specialty that deals with the teeth, gums, nerves and the jaw, while orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry that focuses on correcting the bites, occlusion and straightness of the teeth. All orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are licensed orthodontists.
Orthodontic treatment does more than just move your teeth in a straight line. While having prettier teeth is one of the benefits of braces, orthodontists are trained to detect and correct complex bite and jaw problems that general dentists cannot. To get the best orthodontic treatment for your needs, find an orthodontist who is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). Orthodontists have received additional training after graduating from dental school and college.
This extra training allows them to provide treatments to correct crowded teeth, spaces between teeth, teeth that protrude, and jaws that don't align properly. Orthodontists use x-rays and photographs of the teeth to create individualized treatment plans for each patient. They also have many tools at their disposal to help align teeth and jaws correctly, including traditional braces, lingual braces, and transparent aligners. In most cases, it is the general dentist who first examines the teeth and refers the patient to an orthodontist.
Making sure you see an orthodontist in the office for your orthodontic treatment is the best option for achieving the beautiful, healthy smile you desire.