What’s the Difference between a General Dentist and an Orthodontist?

Dental patient getting dental treatment from orthodontist

You spent a long time choosing a dentist for your family. You considered many options and even narrowed your focus to pediatric dentists when your children were young. Now that they are getting a bit older, it’s time to seek out an orthodontist.

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You feel comfortable with your dentist; however, it’s not an orthodontic practice. Should you let your general dentist do the work because your children are familiar with the office or should you try to find a specialist who can give your child better orthodontic treatment?

What kind of expertise do you want when it comes to your children’s health? There are some fundamental differences between a general dentist and an orthodontist. Here are those differences you must consider when selecting who will perform your children’s orthodontic work.

General Dentists

General dentists are the people you see every year to get your teeth cleaned and make sure your oral health is on track. They are jacks of all trades in many ways. They must keep up with the evolution of dentistry while managing the most basic to complex oral health problems.

General dentists will have bachelor’s degrees, after which they will apply to study at a dental school, which is another four-year program. Upon completion of this doctoral program, they can begin a dental practice.


Orthodontists have the same schooling as general dentists and are initially trained in the same skill sets when it comes to helping you maintain your oral health. After successful completion of a dental program, dentists interested in specializing in orthodontics will continue in a two- to three-year residency program. During this time students will learn to specialize in orthodontics.

Installing braces is just one facet of an orthodontist’s expertise. This specialization requires learning the ins and outs of jaw and teeth-straightening procedures to correct issues such as misaligned jaws or teeth, crowded teeth, overbites and underbites. Along with staying informed on advancements in general dentistry, these specialists will also maintain expertise in the advancements in orthodontics.

Why Choose an Orthodontist?

For the majority of your family’s dental needs, you’re going to want to seek out a general or pediatric dentist. Dentists will check your teeth, talk to you about your oral health, and do such procedures as filling cavities, root canals, gum care, teeth whitening, and more.

If, however, you are in need of orthodontic work like braces, you will want to speak to an orthodontist. Even if your general dentist has the appropriate schooling with orthodontics, by choosing a specialist to provide for your family’s teeth-straightening needs, you are selecting experience as well as knowledge. Orthodontists do orthodontic work every day; the same is not true for a general dentist.

At the end of the day, your family’s oral health is your main concern. When it comes time to choose the medical professionals to provide treatment for your family, you want the best. By selecting a medical professional based on knowledge, as well as ongoing experience, you are providing your family with a health ally who will provide dedicated, focused support.

You want to keep your family smiling and proud of those smiles—give your family the specialized support they need.


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