Dentists and orthodontists are both qualified doctors who specialize in oral health. We move in the same circles and often we can share patients in the areas we practice. Often a dentist will direct a patient to an orthodontist and vice-versa. A dentist might forward a patient for specialized care with unaligned teeth, overbites and underbites (technically referred to as “malocclusion”); likewise, an orthodontist will often forward a patient to a dentist to receive care for tooth decay, gum care, and cleaning.
All orthodontists are qualified dentists, but receive an additional two-to-three years of education. Orthodontic graduate degrees must be acquired at a university program approved by the American Dental Association.
So does that mean I shouldn’t bother with dentists?
Absolutely not. General dentistry is still very important and no orthodontist worth their salt would put braces on a patient with bad gums and cavities. It wouldn’t be wise to dismiss a primary care physician out of hand just because they may not be a qualified brain surgeon. Generalized care along with specialized care are building blocks in which a solid foundation of health is built.
The additional training allows an orthodontist to focus their care on crowding of teeth, misaligned teeth, malocclusion, and jaw treatment (TMD disorders). General dentistry does not cover these treatments in detail.
So the answer to “why an orthodontist?” then is: orthodonic treatment is based on the professional belief that a patient is entitled to care based on expert knowledge, performed by specialists with the training to focus on each patient’s precise needs.
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