General Dentist vs. Orthodontist

Who do you choose for your orthodontic care…the General Dentist or Orthodontist?

There is often a lack of understanding regarding the distinction between an Orthodontist and a general dentist. The key differentiating factor lies in their education and experience.

While some general dentists may attempt to provide orthodontic treatment using Braces or Invisalign after completing a few weekend or evening courses, the critical issue is the need for more education, experience, and expertise to diagnose and plan treatment accurately. Understanding potential complications and being able to offer the most suitable treatment options are crucial aspects that should not be overlooked.

The field of orthodontics demands a comprehensive understanding of complex dental issues, proper treatment planning, and the ability to navigate potential challenges. This is where the specialized training and extensive experience of an Orthodontist come into play. Their in-depth knowledge enables them to deliver the highest quality orthodontic care while prioritizing patient safety and optimal treatment outcomes.

How do you know the difference between them?

Distinguishing between a general dentist and an Orthodontist is simpler than expected. All dentists begin their careers by graduating from dental school, which qualifies them to practice general dentistry. However, becoming a specialist is an achievement reserved for the most exceptional doctors. An Orthodontist, specifically, is a specialist in the field of orthodontics. These specialty training programs are highly competitive, with rigorous selection processes that choose only the most outstanding candidates. For instance, over 250 doctors recently applied for residency training at UCLA, but only 4 were accepted. These residencies typically span 2-3 years, much like the medical residencies that produce specialists such as cardiologists and dermatologists.

One way to differentiate between an orthodontist and a general dentist is through their signage. A general dentist who provides orthodontic services to their patients will always display signage that says “Orthodontics.” However, it will never say “Orthodontist.” Using the term “Orthodontist” would be misleading to consumers, as general dentists lack the specialized training required to be recognized as specialists. The State of California safeguards consumer interests and prohibits general dentists from using the term “Orthodontist.” Only Orthodontic Specialists are permitted to describe themselves using this term.

Why does it matter?

It is widely recognized that specialists in both medical and dental fields possess superior experience, training, and knowledge in their areas of expertise. Specialties such as cardiology, oncology, and orthodontics are trusted by people due to their specialized expertise, particularly in critical life-and-death situations.

When seeking medical or dental care, we place our trust in specialists with the expertise to diagnose nuanced conditions and accurately provide the best possible treatment. Specialists also possess the ability to identify risks, prevent complications, and perceive details that a general practitioner might need more specialized experience. This principle holds true in the field of dentistry as well.

An orthodontic specialist is significantly more likely to address orthodontic issues compared to a general dentist effectively. This is because the specialist has amassed extensive knowledge and experience through a daily practice focused solely on orthodontics. In contrast, a general dentist has limited experience in orthodontic tooth movement, with their primary role revolving around teeth cleaning, cavity removal, fillings, and tooth replacements.

Therefore, relying on an orthodontic specialist ensures a higher likelihood of correctly and safely correcting orthodontic concerns due to their specialized expertise and dedicated focus on orthodontic treatment.