Orthodontist vs. Dentist: What’s the Difference?

You likely already know that you should see your dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning. But what about an orthodontist? When do you need to see them?

Many people confuse dentists and orthodontists. Both are dental professionals who specialize in oral healthcare, but their services differ.

To make sure you’re making an appointment with the right one, you need to understand the difference between them.

So, What’s the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?

You may assume not much, but their qualifications and the services they offer differ significantly.

What Is a Dentist?

Dentists are doctors of oral health who are trained and certified in the practice of dentistry. They complete a General Dental Degree and provide a wide range of services including dental cleaning and repairing broken teeth.

A dentist’s area of practice includes spotting and treating cavities, mild gum disease and oral hygiene problems. They provide the following care:

  • Filling and bonding teeth
  • Repairing cracked teeth
  • Extracting teeth
  • Performing root canals
  • Installing veneers or crowns
  • Taking dental X-rays
  • Encouraging oral health and hygiene
  • Prescribing medicines and treatments
  • Other emergency dental services

According to the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB), to become a licensed dentist in Canada, an individual must have one of several certifications. These include a BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery), DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry or Doctor of Dental Medicine). They must also be certified by the NDEB.

When to See a Dentist

A dentist is a general practitioner who can resolve all standard dental issues. If you’re suffering from a toothache, tooth decay, gum disease, oral inflammation, oral infection or a worn tooth that needs extraction, you should visit a dentist. Your dentist also takes care of routine dental checkups, cleanings and monitors your overall oral healthcare.


What Is an Orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in teeth straightening and bite correction. They are experts in aligning jaws and moving teeth to give you a beautiful, healthy smile. These dental professionals correct gaps, overcrowded teeth, misaligned jaws and teeth that stick out.

Although an orthodontist is certified to diagnose and treat oral health conditions, their focus is on making sure your teeth and jaw are set correctly. They offer many types of treatments including:

  • Retainers
  • Clear aligners
  • Traditional braces
  • Lingual braces
  • Diagnosis and treatment of malocclusion
  • Teeth-straightening surgery
  • Lip and cheek bumpers

Orthodontists in Brampton must finish postgraduate studies in the specialty of orthodontics after completing regular dental school. You must first become a licensed dentist and then pursue a further three-year postgraduate course to become a certified orthodontist.

When to See an Orthodontist

It’s generally advisable to go to a dentist first for any oral health issue. If necessary, the dentist will ask you to see an orthodontist.

For example, say you’re experiencing a toothache and go to your dentist. If they find out that the pain is caused by a crooked tooth or a problem that affects your bite, they’ll refer you to an orthodontist. Some cosmetic dentistry issues such as teeth that stick out, temporomandibular disorders, overbites, under-bites or gaps between teeth can also be fixed with orthodontic treatments.


The speciality of orthodontics was found by Edward H. Angle. He was the first orthodontist and first member of the dental profession to limit his practice to orthodontics.

Why It Is Essential to Know the Difference

Some people confuse dentists with orthodontists, which is understandable given that they both offer oral healthcare services.

But it’s important to know the difference so you go to the right professional for the right job. Although dentists can diagnose, treat and prevent dental diseases, certain areas of dentistry are beyond their ken.

Orthodontists focus on the bite – how teeth meet and function, how they align, how they are set in the jaws, and the positioning and sizes of the upper and lower jaws.

Why Both Are Important to Your Oral Health

Dentists and orthodontists work closely to come up with an effective treatment plan for your dental issues. Dentists are your first line of defence against potentially serious oral health issues. Orthodontists help you get a healthy smile by improving alignment and offering specialized treatment for certain dental conditions.

The Bottom Line
Dentists and orthodontists offer different dental services, so be sure of your needs before you choose one. Your best bet is to visit a dental office, like Dentistry on Dusk that offers both general dentistry and orthodontic services. We offer a wide range of services including cosmetic dentistry, pediatric dentistry and orthodontics in Brampton.

This entry was posted in Dentistry on Dusk on June 25, 2020.

Dental Clinic Brampton

(Chinguacousy Rd. / Dusk Dr.)
55 Dusk Drive (Unit #2)
Brampton, Ontario, L6Y 5Z6

Phone: 905-453-7777
Email: info@dentistryondusk.com