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The Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist

Oral health is essential to your overall health and well-being, and it is crucial to understand the different types of dental professionals that can help you maintain your oral health. Two of the most common dental professionals people encounter are dentists and orthodontists. 

Although these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they represent two distinct areas of expertise within dentistry. This article will explore the differences between a dentist and an orthodontist.

What is a Dentist?

General Dentistry

General dentistry is a branch of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of oral diseases and disorders. General dentists are responsible for a wide range of oral health services, including:

  • Dental examinations and cleanings
  • Fillings and restorations
  • Tooth extractions
  • Root canals
  • Gum disease treatment
  • Crowns and bridges

Education and Training

To become a general dentist, one must complete a four-year undergraduate program and attend dental school for four years. During dental school, students receive a comprehensive education in all aspects of oral health, including anatomy, physiology, and microbiology. After graduation, they must pass a rigorous licensing exam to practice dentistry in their state.

Importance of General Dentistry

General dentists play a vital role in maintaining oral health, as they are often the first line of defense against oral diseases and disorders. Regular dental checkups and cleanings can help prevent and detect problems early before they become more serious and require more extensive treatment.

What is an Orthodontist?


Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that focuses on correcting irregularities in the teeth and jaws, such as misalignment, overcrowding, and overbite/underbite. Orthodontists use a variety of treatments to achieve these goals, including:

  • Braces
  • Aligners
  • Retainers
  • Headgear
  • Palatal expanders

Education and Training

To become an orthodontist, one must complete a four-year undergraduate program and attend dental school for an additional four years. After graduation, they must complete a two-to-three-year residency program in orthodontics, where they receive specialized training in diagnosing and treating orthodontic problems.

Importance of Orthodontics

Orthodontic treatment is not just about improving the appearance of your smile – it can also have significant health benefits. Correcting misaligned teeth and jaws can improve your ability to chew and speak properly and prevent problems such as TMJ disorder and gum disease. In addition, a straighter smile can boost your self-confidence and improve your overall quality of life.

Differences Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist

If you’re wondering about the differences between a dentist and an orthodontist in New Jersey, it’s important to note the following differences:

Treatment Objectives

While dentists focus on maintaining and improving the overall oral health of their patients, orthodontists specialize in treating specific problems related to the alignment of the teeth and jaws. Orthodontic treatment aims to correct misaligned teeth and jaws, which can cause problems with speech, eating, and oral hygiene. By correcting these issues, orthodontic treatment can help to improve a patient’s oral health, as well as their overall well-being.

Patient Age

Dentists typically treat patients of all ages, from young children to older adults. They provide various services, including preventative care, restorative care, and cosmetic procedures. Orthodontists, on the other hand, typically specialize in treating children and teenagers with orthodontic problems, although they may also treat adults in some cases. This is because orthodontic treatment is most effective at a young age before the bones in the jaws have fully hardened.

Cost of Treatment

The cost of dental treatment can vary widely depending on the type and severity of the problem. Orthodontic treatment tends to be more expensive than general dental treatment, requiring specialized training, equipment, and materials. However, the cost of orthodontic treatment can be mitigated by seeking treatment early. This can prevent more severe problems from developing, requiring more extensive and expensive treatment later.

Insurance Coverage

Many dental insurance plans cover general and orthodontic treatment, although the extent of coverage may vary depending on the plan. It is important to check with your insurance provider to determine what services are covered and what your out-of-pocket costs will be. Some orthodontic treatments, such as cosmetic orthodontics, may not be covered by insurance and may require additional out-of-pocket expenses.


Orthodontists and dentists can improve oral health. Orthodontists tackle dental alignment issues, whereas dentists provide general oral health treatments. Treatment costs and insurance coverage vary, and both professions need specific training. Patients may make educated oral health choices and choose the right treatment by learning the distinctions between these two categories of dental practitioners.