One of the questions we are asked most frequently is what the difference is between an orthodontist and a dentist. Broadly speaking, the difference is pretty clear cut. A dentist is a general dental health practitioner that deals with your teeth, gums, jaw and related nerves. An orthodontist is a specialist dental practitioner solely concerned with correcting malocclusions and other alignment problems.
Confusion sometimes occurs when dentists choose to offer treatments that would generally be associated with orthodontists. Some non-specialist dentists now offer certain kinds of realignment treatments.
We think that there are two key things to keep in mind when differentiating between orthodontists and dentists.
1. Specialist training and qualifications
Dentists and orthodontists both begin their dental education with a degree in dentistry. From there, specialist orthodontists go on to complete a further three years of postgraduate study. This includes academic theory as well as hands on experience alongside qualified orthodontists.
Once trainee orthodontists have completed this training programme, they then have to sit the Membership of Orthodontics examination which is set by the Royal College of Surgeons.
It is only after completing the three year postgraduate training programme and passing the examination that a dental professional can register as a specialist orthodontist with the General Dental Council.
2. Specialist experience
Before a specialist orthodontist can begin the postgraduate training programme they need to gain experience within restorative dentistry, paediatric dentistry and maxillofacial surgery. This allows the orthodontist to gain expertise in a number of specialist fields a regular dentist might not.
During the specialist training programme they will be working exclusively with orthodontic patients alongside highly experienced specialist professionals.
After they have completed the training and registered as a specialist orthodontist, they will then exclusively treat orthodontic patients.
When you choose to visit a specialist orthodontist, you get the benefit of all this specialist training and experience. This means that you can be sure you’re getting the absolute best treatment and advice available.