What Is an Orthodontist? What Do They Do?

What Is an Orthodontist – Overview

People often get confused between a dentist and an orthodontist. Though these two professions are similar, An orthodontist specializes in diagnosing, preventing, and treating dental and facial irregularities. In this article, you will learn the roles and responsibilities of an orthodontist in detail.

What Are the Differences Between Orthodontists and Dentists

Orthodontists and dentists both provide dental care to their patients. But there is a thin line in between. Dentists broadly focus on teeth, gums, mouth, and overall oral hygiene, while orthodontists specialize in aligning teeth and jaws. When a dentist studies further to become an expert on the treatment of misalignment of teeth and jaw, he becomes an orthodontist.

What Is an Orthodontist

An orthodontist is a dentist who has taken special training in diagnosing, treating, and preventing irregularities or misaligning teeth and jaw. They can give consultancy to people of all age groups. They can provide treatment of all the teeth, jaw, gum, and nerve-related issues. An overcrowded mouth is another condition that an orthodontist has expertise in.

How Much Training Does an Orthodontist Need

The education path to becoming an orthodontist includes four years of undergraduate study, four years of dental school, and two to three years of specialized orthodontic residency. According to the American Dental Association, you must have a degree of Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) to continue.

Next, you need to obtain special education in orthodontics. You can gain your certification through a three-year residency program as well.

Specialized institutions and universities offer orthodontic residency programs, not most dental schools. There are two specific areas of the discipline.

Orthodontics: This focuses on how a person can effectively move teeth safely into their appropriate place.

Dentofacial Orthopedics: This is a study of teeth and jaw development.

After completing the study, you can always collect your certification and advance your career.

What Does an Orthodontist Do

An orthodontist is a specialist in fixing misaligned teeth. They can diagnose if your teeth are correctly aligned or not. They can recommend braces or any other treatment procedure as per your requirement to straighten your teeth.

Any gap in your teeth is generally called diastema. It can grow large with your age. An orthodontist will try to pull all your teeth closer to resolve the issue. Sometimes, kids develop excessive teeth that cause several problems in their mouths. An orthodontist can extract the excess teeth to align your mouth and create better spacing.

The orthodontist often uses multiple tools during the treatment procedure. Braces are the most popular solution. The orthodontist can bond brackets on your front teeth and this band can connect all the teeth via wires.

Braces can pull the teeth into an upright alignment and straighten them gradually. This process is time-consuming but safe and extremely effective simultaneously.

Clear aligners are an alternative to braces for some patients, but not all cases can be treated with aligners; the decision is based on the specific alignment issues of the patient. Aligners are not visible from a distance, which makes your smile more beautiful. It does not use any metal brackets or weirs. Patients can remove them whenever they want, making aligners more popular and likable.

In some extreme cases, an orthodontist may need to use a palate expander in their treatment process. It can widen the arch of your upper jaw to give you more space.

Headgear is another solution to these kinds of problems. It can connect the back of your head to a wire in the frontal part of your mouth. The main focus is to correct the bite and support proper jaw growth.

An orthodontist deals with multiple dental problems, such as teeth or jaw misalignment, overbites, crowded teeth, underbites, crooked teeth, teeth that are far apart, etc.

IOrthognathic surgery is performed by oral and maxillofacial surgeons, often in collaboration with an orthodontist, for pre and post-surgical orthodontic treatment. The orthodontist can use surgical screws, wires, or plates to provide support to your jawbone.

This surgery is only needed if the growth is stopped or an orthodontist treatment has been unsuccessful. Correction of a dental malocclusion can make your chewing, biting, and speaking easier. It can also make your cleaning process easier, preventing you from developing any tooth decay or cavities.

It can improve the symmetry of your mouth and your overall appearance. It can also eliminate the pain from TMJ, or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.

When Do You Need to See an Orthodontist?

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, you must go for your first check-up at seven. You can go for a visit if you ever have any misalignment in your teeth, which is also called malocclusion.

If you are experiencing problems like a deformed jaw, overcrowded teeth, irregular bite patterns, etc, you must visit an orthodontist immediately. Avoiding certain conditions can complicate the treatment procedure and create multiple issues.

If you ever need dental X-rays, digital scans of your teeth or gums, or oral exams, you can always make an appointment with an orthodontist.


An orthodontist has all the answers to your oral problems. They can diagnose and provide the appropriate treatment and prevention for all your problems. It is important to visit an orthodontist regularly to maintain good oral hygiene and prevent your teeth from developing any major issues.

See Also

What is Pediatric Neurology

What is Neuro Ophthalmology

Does Medicaid Cover Braces

Different Types of Braces

How Long Do Braces Hurt

Partial Dentures vs Implants

Current Version
September 27, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover
March 18, 2024
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.

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