Dentist or Orthodontist?

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Nowadays, a lot of dentists are doing Invisalign and other orthodontic treatments. So why should you go out to see an orthodontist?

For a little back story. Both require a bachelor’s degree and an application for dental school. They then complete a four-year doctorate program. Directly after graduation, general dentists may begin to practice dentistry.  Orthodontists start their careers as general dentists. However, they need to finish another 2-3 years of a specialized, intensive residency program. And then, since we need to be extra careful when moving around someone’s teeth, orthodontists need to pass a multi-day exam to earn their license to be certified with the American Board of Orthodontics.  General practitioners aren’t required to complete this additional process.

As a general rule, orthodontists won’t perform root canals, do fillings or crowns, do teeth cleanings, or offer whitening services in order to put their focus on “bad bites” and jaw discrepancy.

To catch up or keep up, a general practitioner will have to complete a lot of continuing education credits in addition to what they currently practice and have to do. The field of orthodontics practiced by general dentists is recent and due to new technologies, such as Invisalign. With cases simple enough, it can be a resource.

However, while we (I included, for I, the blog writer, am an average person with no actual orthodontic training) may assume Orthodontics is simply straightening or re-aligning your teeth, often times orthodontics is about what can’t be seen to the normal eye.

A friend from long ago once asked someone “If you had a heart condition, would you go to see a general practitioner?” The answer was “No. I’d see a cardiology specialist.”

It begins with a full panoramic X-ray of your mouth that shows us all of your teeth, where permanent teeth will erupt and how big they will be, and the roots of your teeth. All of these small details are necessary when creating a treatment plan.  We also take an initial X-ray of your jaw and its alignment, to determine if there is a discrepancy in the size of your jaw in relation to the size of all the teeth that are trying to cram their way into your mouth. This will avoid the need for extractions, determine if a child needs an appliance before braces to help jaw growth, or if an adult patient may need jaw surgery down the road in order to accomplish the results they want.

Due to the fact that an orthodontist has more experience doing braces, they are also better suited for more difficult or severe cases, especially cases that cannot be fixed with simple Invisalign aligners.

Ultimately there are many differences between a dentist and an orthodontist. With the same base foundation, they often choose to go in completely different directions to provide great oral health care. Orthodontists will work alongside general dentists, surgeons, and other oral health care professionals in order to provide the best treatment possible.

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