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 to become an orthodontist, a dentist must study further. 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 different 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 fix the alignment or spacing in your teeth. If you need more advanced treatment, they can provide that too.

Orthodontist vs Dentist | 4 Primary Differences

Orthodontist vs Dentist

Orthodontist vs Dentist – 4 Primary Differences

There are some significant differences between the roles and responsibilities of a dentist and an orthodontist.

1. Education and Training

Like all other doctors, dentists need to be trained in their work from a dental school. The classes can take place 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.

But an orthodontist needs to receive additional training and education before entering the professional world. For example, before joining a dentistry school, they must pursue a premedical or pre-dentistry major. Then, after they become a licensed dentist, they need to be trained in an orthodontic residency program.

It takes around two to three years to receive the certification and start practicing. They are only eligible to begin practicing once they pass the additional certification tests.

2. Certification

Once dental student receives their DMD or DDS, they are eligible to appear for National Board Dental Examination to obtain their license. Without the permit, they are not eligible to start dealing with the patients independently.

Orthodontists can start practicing only after receiving their certification in dentistry and orthodontics.

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 the 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 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 can be considered a specialist in oral healthcare. If you have issues like tooth crowning, jaw malocclusion, palate expansion, teeth misalignment, etc you must visit an orthodontist immediately.

If you have crooked teeth or jaw lines and want to realign them, you can seek guidance from an orthodontist. All children must be assessed before age seven by an orthodontist.

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 have to prepare for the examinations to receive your license as well. 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 figure out which interests you the most.

3. Demand

Both professions have different demands and expectations. By becoming an orthodontist, you can achieve a stable atmosphere. But 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 decide. In that case, it is always advisable to consult an academic advisor for better guidance.


Though there are multiple similarities between an orthodontist and a dentist, there are always some significant differences in understanding whom you need to visit. In simpler words, 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

Follow us