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What’s the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?

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In the past few years, there has been an increase in interest in adult orthodontics in the UK.

Until the early 2000s, orthodontics was not a common practice in the UK. Now, it is becoming more accessible and more popular with kids and adults, alike.

We often encounter patients that aren’t quite sure what the difference is between an orthodontist and a dentist. What can these oral health specialists do for you? How do you know which one to see?

We’re here to dispel any confusion you may have about orthodontia and dentistry. We’ll talk about the services provided and the education required for both. We’ll also talk about how to get an appointment with your local orthodontist.

Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about an orthodontist compared to a dentist.

What Is an Orthodontist?

Orthodontists are primarily interested in the overall structure of your teeth and jaw.

While orthodontics falls under the umbrella of oral healthcare alongside dentists, an orthodontist’s area of expertise is improving the alignment and positioning of your teeth.

While many people assume that orthodontics is a purely cosmetic service, the truth is that misalignments of the teeth and jaws can cause serious health problems.

What Services Does an Orthodontist Provide?

You will likely get X-rays done when you visit an orthodontist’s clinic.

Your orthodontist will take a 3D digital scan of your teeth. This allows them to assess any alignment issues better to develop a treatment plan.

  • Orthodontists often provide:
  • Invisalign and clear aligners
  • Mini or partial braces
  • Individual procedures to address aesthetic issues

This allows them to treat conditions including misaligned or overcrowded teeth and overbites and underbites.

Because orthodontists are experts in jaw alignment issues, they can often treat jaw-related problems such as crossbites.

When Should You See an Orthodontist?

How do you know if an orthodontist is the right oral health specialist for you?

You should consider seeing an orthodontist if:

  • You don’t like your smile or find yourself hiding it from view
  • Your alignment issues are causing pain or discomfort
  • Your alignment or jaw positioning makes it difficult to talk or chew
  • You are experiencing symptoms of TMD or other jaw problems
  • Your alignment is prohibiting you from cleaning your teeth properly

Often, your dentist will be the first to tell you if you or your child would benefit from seeing an orthodontist.

What Education Does an Orthodontist Receive?

Orthodontists undergo the same education that a dentist receives, which we will discuss more thoroughly below.

Like other medical specialists, orthodontists complete at least six more years of training, including hands-on experience and academic studies.

Orthodontists must complete and pass the Membership in Orthodontics exam, and a postgraduate degree such as a Masters in Orthodontics.

What Is a Dentist?

Dentists are interested in the health of your teeth and gums, providing essential dental care treatment to patients of all ages.

In addition to performing routine cleanings to prevent plaque build-up and decay, dentists assess the state of a patient’s dental health, diagnosing any conditions that require treatment.

Dentists often work in a sort of partnership with other oral health specialists, including orthodontists.

When your dentist diagnoses you with an oral health issue they cannot address, they will refer you to specialists who can.

You can compare it to your GP referring you to a cardiologist or neurosurgeon.

What Services Does a Dentist Provide?

A regular dental appointment will involve a cleaning, during which dental hygienists and your dentist will brush and floss your teeth and scrape away any stuck-on plaque.

In addition to these cleanings, dentists can provide several services, including:

  • tooth extraction
  • cavity fillings
  • root canals
  • dental crowns and bridges
  • gum disease treatment

Dentists provide preventative, diagnostic, and curative care.

By visiting a dentist, you can stay on top of oral health conditions that can worsen or lead to other health issues.

When Should You See a Dentist?

Currently, an estimated 39% of UK adults don’t see a dentist regularly.

The truth is that it’s beneficial to see a dentist at least once a year to get a thorough cleaning and a check-up.

You should also schedule an appointment with your dentist if:

  • you are experiencing tooth pain
  • your gums bleed when you brush or floss
  • your gums are swollen and painful
  • you have sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • you have recently damaged one or more teeth

Many dentists will schedule emergency appointments when patients are experiencing severe pain or have sustained an injury to the mouth.

If you have concerns about oral health, don’t hesitate to call your dentist.

What Education Does a Dentist Receive?

To practice dentistry in the UK, dentists complete a dentistry degree over five years.

Candidates that did not have A-levels at grade A will have to complete pre-dentistry courses before beginning this five-year process.

Dentists who have an educational background in related sciences may be able to get their dentistry degree in four years instead of five.

What Should You Do If You Want to See an Orthodontist?

If you want to see an NHS orthodontist, your first step should be to talk to your dentist.

You are able to contact most specialist orthodontic practices directly if you are seeking private treatment or an urgent opinion.

Most orthodontists accept NHS and private referrals to see new patients. This will lead to a consultation, during which your orthodontist will examine your teeth and discuss different orthodontic options, including braces, partial braces, and aligners.

Children under the age of 18 may qualify for NHS orthodontic care. However, you do not have to have NHS approval to receive orthodontic care.

Many adults undergo orthodontic treatment.

Visit Us at Park Orthodontics

Choosing an orthodontist isn’t always easy. At Park Orthodontics, we take great pride in our work and are considered one of the best orthodontic practices in Scotland.

If you have more questions about the difference between orthodontists and dentists or want to learn more about how to get started with us, contact us today.

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Picture of Dr Andrew McGregor

Dr Andrew McGregor

Andrew completed his three years of orthodontic specialist training in 2010 gaining his Masters degree and Membership in Orthodontics and has worked at Park Orthodontics since then. As an orthodontic specialist he has treated thousands of patients ranging from simple bite correction in children to complex smile and bite makeovers in adults. Andrew is a member of the British Orthodontic Society, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Scottish Orthodontic Specialists Group and the British Lingual Orthodontic Society.

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