What Is the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?

Orthodontist Visit in Houston, Texas

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Have you ever wondered about the difference between dentist and orthodontist? If you have, you’re certainly not the first person to ask yourself which is better. In fact, many people have that internal debate regarding orthodontist vs dentist as they try to decide which one they should really see. Fortunately, we can shed some light on this question and help you decide between seeing an orthodontist vs general dentist. By the time you’re finished reading this, you will have a much better idea of the types of things that each one is capable of doing, not to mention when you might need each one. Along the way, you will even have the chance to learn about other issues related to your oral health. If you’re looking for an affordable orthodontist in Houston, you’ve come to the right place. It’s now time to sit back and learn whether you should see a dentist or orthodontist.

When Do You Need a Dentist?

There are a lot of times when the orthodontist vs general dentist debate really doesn’t even come into play. If your teeth are relatively straight and your jawline is well aligned, you will probably be spending most of your time in a dentist’s office when it comes to caring for your oral health. If you look at an orthodontist definition, you will likely see that the main specialty they deal with involves straightening of the teeth and ensuring that the jaw is aligned properly. Therefore, you may not ever think about the age-old question involving orthodontist vs dentist if your teeth are already straight and well aligned. However, you will still need to visit your dentist for a number of other things. Below is a rather extensive list of the services you can typically expect from a general dentist.

Teeth Whitening

Who doesn’t want white teeth? When your teeth are white, you have more confidence. The truth is, teeth that look yellow or appear otherwise discolored often cause people to refrain from smiling. In extreme cases, it can have such an impact on your confidence that you start to act differently. You might think of teeth whitening in the same way you think of going to the gym. It’s a way to look and feel your best at all times.

See Also: Where to go in Houston for Teeth Whitening 

Treatment of Oral Health Issues

When you’re trying to decide between a dentist or orthodontist, keep in mind that a general dentist is capable of helping with many oral health issues such as gingivitis, also known as gum disease. They can also help when it comes to things like prescribing antibiotics for oral infections. Your general dentist can monitor your oral health needs and treat them as needed. He or she can also fill and bond your teeth, apply crowns and veneers, and repair cracked teeth. It isn’t at all uncommon to visit a general dentist in order to have cavities filled or even for a tooth extraction. Your dentist is also capable of taking x-rays in order to diagnose and treat certain conditions. If you need oral surgery, it may be performed by a dentist.

When Do You Need an Orthodontist?

From reading the paragraph above, you’re probably starting to think that someone who is licensed in general dentistry can do practically everything. In fact, it might even seem that there is very little difference between dentist and orthodontist at this point. However, there are times when the orthodontist vs dentist debate does come into play. In fact, it all comes back to the orthodontist definition. In order to gain a better understanding, one must first understand what an orthodontist specializes in. An orthodontist can be defined as a dentist who specializes in the alignment of the jaw and teeth. As a result, your orthodontist will prescribe braces, expanders and other dental appliances as needed in order to ensure straight teeth. Orthodontists can even perform surgery to straighten the teeth and of course, work with you to develop a treatment plan to straighten your teeth and then keep them that way. An orthodontist is required to diagnose one of the more common dental health issues, malocclusion. This is when the teeth do not line up inside the jaw and it requires someone who specializes in orthodontics to remedy the problem. Of course, these individuals also monitor the growth of the jaw in children while simultaneously keeping a close eye on tooth development.

Best Orthodontist in Houston, Texas

Orthodontist vs Dentist: Recapping the Differences

Clearly, there are a lot of differences between these two individuals. You might think of a general dentist in the same way that you think of your physician being a general practitioner. By the same token, an orthodontist specializes in a certain field, in this case the alignment of the jaw and teeth. In order to recap the differences, you can take a closer look at the bullet lists below. Doing so will help clarify any questions you might still have about the difference between dentist and orthodontist.

General Dentistry

General dentists can help with most things, including the following:


When you need a specialist that can help you get straighter teeth, it’s time to step up your game and see an orthodontist. They can help with the following issues:

Is the Training the Same for Both Dentist and Orthodontist?

Surprisingly enough, the training starts out the same. It involves either pre-medical or pre-dentistry courses. Once these courses are completed, they are followed up by four years of graduate school courses specifically for dentistry. This includes two years spent in both the lab and the classroom and another two years involving practical patient experience. At the end of the four years, candidates must take a licensure exam in order to become a fully certified dentist. For orthodontists, the training is even longer. It involves everything that has already been discussed, plus an additional two to three years of residency. There are also additional certification tests that must be passed.

Which Is Better?

If you’re wondering which is better, it only stands to reason that you may have this question on your mind because you are searching for an affordable orthodontist in Houston. Maybe you’re thinking about the cost of Invisalign or you’re worried about the average cost of braces. Perhaps you recently found out that it’s possible to get braces in certain colors and you’re searching for braces color ideas. At the end of the day, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. It really comes down to your needs. As previously mentioned, people with straight teeth typically see a dentist and those who have issues with the alignment of their teeth often see an orthodontist. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t need to see a dentist as well. It isn’t uncommon to see an orthodontist for your teeth straightening needs and also see a dentist for other issues concerning your oral health. It’s important to remember that if you have specific issues such as expansion of the palate, malocclusion or tooth crowding, it is imperative to see an orthodontist. Furthermore, kids should be seen by an orthodontist no later than their seventh birthday. This ensures that any issues can be taken care of early on, often making it much easier to effectively correct the problem.

What About Insurance?

It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether or not your insurance will cover all of your dental costs. In most cases, even those with excellent insurance have certain co-pays that they must meet out-of-pocket. In reality, it depends on your particular insurance plan, as each one is different. It’s also worth noting that some insurance companies require a referral from a dentist in order to see an orthodontist. This is because orthodontists are typically considered specialists. Therefore, many insurance companies refuse to cover the cost of seeing a specialist unless a referral has been made by your general dentist.

The most important thing to remember from all of this is that your oral health is just as important as any other aspect of your physical health. It should never be ignored. Even if you have perfectly straight teeth, it’s still imperative to see a general dentist on a regular basis. If your teeth aren’t straight, it’s even more important to get a referral for an orthodontist, as crooked teeth can cause problems with chewing and speaking properly. In some cases, it can even make you more susceptible to gum disease and other oral health issues. If you’re looking for more information about the cost of Invisalign, the average cost of braces or braces color ideas, you’re probably searching for a place where you can find experienced orthodontists that you can trust.

Here at Zara Dental in Houston, Texas, we have experienced orthodontists in house. This gives you the opportunity to take care of your general dentistry and orthodontic needs in one location. Whether you need Invisalign, traditional braces or a simple exam, we are here to help. Contact us today to ensure your continued good oral health.

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