What is the Difference Between Dentists and Orthodontists?


This question might have been plaguing you for your entire life and keeping you up at night, but rest assured as you now finally have the answer! Dentists and Orthodontists are very similar and work within the same field, but differ regarding what they specifically handle.


Both practitioners work to improve and maintain your oral health. They can do similar things, but only an orthodontist is specialized to handle more complicated issues.


Dentists are standard-level practitioners that assist patients with more surface-level aspects of dental work and oral health. Orthodontists assist patients more so regarding the overall structure and functioning of your mouth.


Due to the specialized nature of their work, orthodontists have a higher annual salary on average in comparison to dentists.


The process to become an orthodontist is more rigorous than to become a dentist because of the extra coursework. Orthodontics is typically a three-year-long process, referred to as an MDS. A degree in dentistry is known as a BDS.


Dentists know about your teeth, your gums, your nerves, and your jaw. They can help you and advise you on tooth decay and gum disease. Dentists are more concerned with overall oral hygiene.


A dentist will typically do the following:


  • Fill cavities
  • Extract teeth
  • Repair cracked teeth
  • Conduct and interpret X-Rays
  • Fill and bond teeth
  • Treat hum diseases like gingivitis
  • Whiten teeth
  • Install crowns or veneers
  • Prescribe treatment and prescription drugs for oral health conditions
  • Perform oral surgery
  • Oversee the development of children’s teeth.


Orthodontists are trained about similar things but focus on the straightness of your teeth, the way your teeth hit against each other, and correcting bites. So one easy way to think about the difference is that orthodontists are a more specialized category of dentists.


Orthodontists are trained and receive the same education that dentists receive, but they go further to learn more about specialized issues about the jaw and teeth.


An orthodontist will typically do the following:

  • Supervise the facial growth in children. This includes their jawline and bite.
  • Diagnose and treat malocclusions, which are misaligned teeth and jaws.
  • Create treatment plans for malocclusions with braces and retainers.
  • Perform surgery to straighten crowded teeth.
  • Install dental appliances like Herbst appliances, braces, headgear, or palatal expanders.


Not all dentists are orthodontists, so that is something important to keep in mind when you are seeking a dental practitioner.


Orthodontists are considered to be a specialist, so even if you have dental insurance they may not be covered. Usually, you will need a referral from your dentist first before you can make an appointment with an orthodontist.


To summarize, a dentist can help you with more simple procedures such as cavity fillings, crowns, tooth extractions, and root canals. An orthodontist is who you would seek out if you need more complex treatments. This could include correcting issues like tooth crowding, teeth alignment, as well as fixing overbites and underbites.


Dentists and orthodontists are very similar in that they work within the same field and have similar training. However, orthodontists are more focused on complex issues regarding the structure of your jaw while dentists are more focused on standard issues.