What’s the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist

There is a lot of confusion about the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist. That confusion is important when you need to schedule an appointment about who to see. Typically, a dentist will recommend you to an orthodontist. Depending on your insurance plan, you might need a dentist recommendation for your orthodontist to be covered. So, what are orthodontists and what are dentists?

What Are They?

Both professions are medical professions that deal with dental procedures. They even treat most of the same dental ailments. The major difference is the way they treat the diseases and ailments. Dentists typically go to school for about eight years total. When they graduate, they are doctors of dentistry. Orthodontists typically do two or three more years of schooling. They are doctors of dental surgery.

Essentially, a n orthodontist is a dentist who can do jaw and tooth alignment work as well as dental surgery. For example, you might see a dentist to help you find the right tooth straightening products. However, you’ll need a n orthodontist to have your teeth surgically straightened. A dentist can do a limited amount of surgery as well. For example, they’ll be able to cut into your gums for root canals or dental implants. However, major surgery requires an orthodontist.

When to See Which?

You should always see a dentist first. A dentist is a more general practitioner that will be able to identify the source of your problem. They’ll likely be able to fix it. If they can’t fix it, they’ll be able to recommend the right orthodontist. In many cases, your insurance won’t cover an orthodontist visit unless you get a dentist recommendation.


These are the basic differences between a dentist and an orthodontist. An orthodontist is just a dentist who has done two or three years of education in the orthodontics field. They’ll be able to do surgery and also deal with the bone around your teeth. You’ll see a dentist first, and the dentist will then be able to recommend you to the right office.

If you have any kind of tooth pain or alignment problems, you should get in touch with a dentist as quickly as possible. Dental and orthodontic problems often start small and get larger; don’t expect them to resolve themselves. If you catch the problem early, you might not even need to see an orthodontist. If you do need to see an orthodontist, you can get an earlier appointment and alleviate your pain.

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