4 Primary Differences Between Orthodontist vs Dentist

Orthodontist vs Dentist – Overview

Most people can get really confused between an orthodontist and a dentist. Though both professions are quite similar, there is always a thin line between them.

Dentists and orthodontists are experts in oral healthcare, but a dentist must study further to become an orthodontist. This article will discuss the differences between a dentist and an orthodontist.

What Does a Dentist Do?

Dentists can provide dental services and regular checkups for their patients. You can seek treatment for any of your oral health issues. Their responsibilities include diagnosing and treating dental problems like gum disease, cavities, tooth decay, etc. A dentist can also provide proper education on oral health and hygiene.

What Does an Orthodontist Do?

Orthodontists are specialists in the dental field who generally provide diagnosis and treatment regarding the position of the jaw and teeth. They can correct any misalignment in your teeth or jaw, occlusion, overcrowding teeth, or spacing between your teeth.

In addition, orthodontists can prescribe braces to correct teeth’ alignment or spacing. They can also provide more advanced treatment if necessary.

Orthodontist vs Dentist | 4 Primary Differences

Significant differences exist between the roles and responsibilities of a dentist and an orthodontist.

1. Education and Training

Like all other doctors, dentists must be trained in their work from a dental school. The classes can occur in a classroom setting and labs for the first two years. Then, for the last two years, the students have worked with dental patients under the supervision of the dental school. After completing their education, dentists are required to pass the National Dental Examination. Only then will they be able to become licensed professionals.

Orthodontists require additional specialized training after dental school. This is not about prerequisites before dental school but rather about completing an accredited orthodontic residency program after obtaining a dental degree. Then, after they become a licensed dentist, they need to be trained in an orthodontic residency program.

Orthodontic residency programs typically last 2 to 3 years, but the time to receive certification may vary depending on completing all requirements and passing the relevant orthodontic board examination. They can only begin practicing once they pass the additional certification tests.

2. Certification

Dental students must pass the National Board Dental Examination (or a state or regional clinical examination) as part of the licensing process after receiving their DMD or DDS. Still, eligibility for licensure also involves meeting other state-specific requirements. Without the permit, they cannot start dealing with the patients independently.

Orthodontists are required to obtain a dental license to practice dentistry, followed by additional certification in orthodontics after completing their residency to practice as orthodontists.

3. Responsibilities

A dentist generally deals with the following conditions

  • Treatment of cavities
  • Performing dental X-rays, providing interpretations and treatment plans
  • Procedures like extraction, fillings, root canals, fitting crowns, etc.
  • Regular checkup
  • Cleaning and screening processes
  • Diagnosis and treatment of gum diseases
  • Enamel problems
  • Tooth decay
  • Repair cracked teeth
  • Services like teeth whitening
  • Observation and treatment of problems like the development of jaws and juvenile teeth
  • Ensure patient care
  • Prescribing drugs and making treatment plans for improving oral health
  • Oral surgery
  • Promoting oral health and hygiene

Responsibilities for orthodontist

  • Examination and diagnosis of jaw and teeth problems
  • Utilization of diagnostic mold
  • X-rays of the alignment of the jaw and teeth
  • Diagnosis and treatment of the mouth and face-related problems
  • Providing treatments for oral communication issues related to jaw alignment and occlusion.
  • Prescribing braces, retainer, or other alignment services for several oral issues
  • Surgery for teeth straightening
  • Assessment and treatment of any facial growth in children

4. When to Visit

Most dental issues can be resolved by visiting a dentist. Problems like tooth decay, tooth pain, cavities, tooth extraction, gum diseases, oral infections, inflammations, etc can be diagnosed and treated efficiently by a dentist.

An orthodontist is a type of dental specialist who has completed additional training and education in the area of orthodontics beyond dental school. For issues related explicitly to teeth misalignment, jaw malocclusion, or the need for palate expansion, you should consult an orthodontist; however, tooth crowning is typically a procedure performed by general dentists unless related to orthodontic treatment.

If you have crooked teeth or jawlines and want to realign them, you can seek guidance from an orthodontist. It is recommended by the American Association of Orthodontists that children have their first orthodontic evaluation by age seven, but this is not a mandatory requirement for all children.

4 Things to Consider Before Choosing a Career in Dental Health

You must consider certain things before choosing a career path in dental health.

1. Education

You must consider the time you want to invest in your education to become a dentist. First, you have to spend a long time studying. Then, you must also prepare for the examinations to receive your license. To become an orthodontist, you need to study for some additional years.

2. Interest

Learn more about the roles and responsibilities of a dentist and an orthodontist, and determine which interests you the most.

3. Demand

Both professions have different demands and expectations. By becoming an orthodontist, you can achieve a stable atmosphere. However, a dentist must deal with all kinds of patients, which can be hectic sometimes.

4. Salary

Both professions have significant salary structures, but an orthodontist can earn more than a dentist because of their expertise and special services.

Suppose you are considering a career path in dental health and are confused about which path to choose. In that case, consulting an academic advisor for better guidance is always advisable.


Though there are multiple similarities between an orthodontist and a dentist, some significant differences exist in understanding whom you need to visit. Simply put, you can consider a dentist a general dental doctor and an orthodontist a specialist.

See Also

Endodontis vs Orthodontist

Do Dentist Go to Medical School

Non Clinical Jobs for Dentists

How to Become a Dentist

HHS Grants for Dentists

Current Version
October 5, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover
March 18, 2024
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.

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