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There are more than 10,000 orthodontists in the United States. Each one of these dental professionals has hundreds of hours of education and expertise. And, they know more about your teeth than the average dentist.

But, what is an orthodontist? They’re highly skilled and renowned, but why is that?

If you’re wondering what the “orthodontist” meaning is and what the differences are between an orthodontist vs a dentist, keep reading. We have everything you need to know about these professionals.

We’ll even explain when you should see one.

What Is an Orthodontist and How Can They Help?

You likely already know that an orthodontist is a very skilled dental professional. But, it’s more than that.

Orthodontists know how to prevent, diagnose, and treat a plethora of dental and facial irregularities. They can handle a big variety of serious dental complaints and conditions.

Becoming an Orthodontist

Orthodontists undergo a lot of schooling. They have to get their high school diploma, complete four years of undergraduate studies, finish a five-year dental studies program, and then enter into a specialty program.

This specialty program requires participants to complete 5,000 hours of study before they can officially become a specialist in orthodontics. To be clear, 5,000 hours of study is equivalent to three years of full-time schooling.

Overall, that’s about 12 years of schooling after high school. With all of this education and experience, you can be confident that any orthodontist that you see knows what he/she is doing.

What Are the Differences Between an Orthodontist vs a Dentist?

Orthodontists and dentists have similar jobs. So, it’s not surprising that so many people get these two dental professionals mixed up.

However, it’s still important to differentiate between them. This is especially true when you’re trying to find the right dental professional to care for your dental health.

First, let’s differentiate the responsibilities of these two professionals.

Dentists cover a wide range of oral health issues, including regular oral health maintenance. Most people who are getting their teeth checked regularly are seeing a dentist.

On the other hand, orthodontists focus on a more specialized group of cases like crooked teeth and misaligned jaws. They are still able to handle a wide variety of cases, but they tend to focus more on specialized conditions.

In fact, some orthodontists will only perform a select number of procedures. Cases outside of those conditions 

Overall, this tells us that dentists are generalists while orthodontists are specialists.

When to See an Orthodontist vs When to See a Dentist

If you’re dealing with an everyday dental problem or wanting to get a checkup, you should see a dentist. However, if you’re dealing with a more structural problem like the arrangement of your teeth or jaw, you should see an orthodontist.

If you’re still unsure which specialist to see, you may want to start by asking your regular dentist. He/She can help you determine whether you need a regular dentist appointment or a referral to an orthodontist.

What Are the Differences Between an Orthodontist vs an Endodontist?

As you know, orthodontists focus on disorders of the teeth and jaw. They are more specialized than dentists.

What you may not know is endodontists are even more specialized.

Endodontists focus on the malleable inner lining of the teeth. This lining is called the pulp.

Thus, endodontists can perform procedures like root canals that can help treat problems with this area of the mouth.

What Treatments Do Orthodontists Offer?

An orthodontist can help both children and adults figure out the best treatments for their dental conditions. If you have malaligned teeth, they’ll help you figure out how to help this. If you have TMJ, they’ll discuss treatments with you.

An orthodontist is there to help you navigate more complex conditions. And, they can offer a variety of treatments:

  • Fixed plates
  • Removeable plates
  • Ceramic braces
  • Clear aligners
  • Invisible braces

The treatment that your orthodontist chooses for you will depend on your current condition and its severity. You shouldn’t guess the treatment prior to speaking with the dental professional.

How Will I Know When I Need to See an Orthodontist?

Your dentist will refer you to an orthodontist if he/she feels that you need more advanced care. So, the next time you’re at your dental checkup, your dentist should let you know if you need more advanced help.

However, if you feel that you should see an orthodontist, you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up.

Maybe you struggle with crowded teeth, but your dentist hasn’t said anything because they’re still within the normal bite. In this case, you may want to ask your dentist for a referral to an orthodontist. The visit may not be required for your dental health, but it’s still important to you.

We should note that – in most cases – you don’t need a referral to see an orthodontist. But, most professionals prefer that you see a dentist before making the leap to an orthodontic specialist. 

The dentist may be able to help you. So, you should give them a shot before you default to a specialist.

Plus, the dentist that you’re seeing may be able to give you a great recommendation for an orthodontist in your area. Having that provider-provider relationship can be beneficial for the patient. So, ask your dentist for someone that they know and trust so that you know you’re getting a great provider.

If you opt to choose your own orthodontist, you should make sure that you understand how to choose the best orthodontist for your care.

Where Can I Go to See an Orthodontist?

Orthodontic professionals are everywhere. Remember, there are more than 10,000 of them in the United States alone.

However, if you’re looking for an orthodontist near Charlotte, North Carolina, we have you covered. Our team at Keorich & Case Orthodontics provides a wide variety of services to our patients. And, we love helping all of our patients achieve their goals for their dental health.

If you’re looking for an orthodontist who’s going to help you beat malaligned teeth and crooked jaws, we’re here for you.

After all, what is an orthodontist? Well, we’re just dental professionals who care.

Schedule an appointment today.