Orthodontist vs. Dentist: What's the difference?

Orthodontist checking girl’s dental braces

Discover and understand the difference between dentists and orthodontists in order to have an informed understanding of which is best for you or your family. Do you know what orthodontists do? Chances are you don’t unless you’ve been to one already. That’s okay, we’re here to give you the download. By the end of this article, you’ll know the difference between your dentist and your orthodontist.

What is a dentist?

A dentist, or dental surgeon, is a healthcare professional who specializes in dentistry. The dentist’s supporting team assists them in providing oral health services. A dental team can include dental assistants, dental hygienists, technicians, and dental therapists.

What is an orthodontist?

We all know what a dentist does, right? We’ve all been to our annual cleaning or maybe even got a filling. A dentist is a doctor trained to specialize in teeth, gums, nerves, and jaw. Orthodontists are dentists too, but they specialize in correcting bites, occlusion, which is how your teeth come in contact with one another, and the straightness of your teeth, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. 


What's the difference?

  • conduct and interpret dental X-rays
  • fill cavities
  • extract teeth
  • repair cracked teeth
  • promote oral health and oral hygiene
  • fill and bond teeth
  • treat gum disease, such as gingivitis
  • prescribe treatment, including prescription drugs, for oral health conditions
  • whiten teeth
  • install crowns or veneers
  • oversee the development of children’s teeth
  • perform oral surgery
  • supervise facial growth (jawline and bite) in children
  • diagnose and treat misaligned teeth and jaws (malocclusion)
  • create a treatment plan that includes braces and retainers
  • perform teeth straightening surgery
  • install dental appliances, such as braces, palatal expanders, orthodontic headgear, or Herbst appliances

Determine whether you need a dentist or an orthodontist

Your local dentist is a great place to start when you’re unsure if you need to see a dentist or an orthodontist. Chances are you can find both professionals in the same office or network.

Find a great orthodontist near you

If you have one of the needs listed in the chart above, you may want to find and consult a family orthodontist from our network. Searches like the best orthodontist near me can help you narrow the search and find an appointment that suits your schedule and comfort level.