Patients often ask me this question and then follow it with another question–how is an orthodontist different from a dentist? I can answer this question easily: Experience, training and value.
As specialists, orthodontists have received an additional three years of full time education, following dental school, at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Most orthodontic residents finished at the top of their dental school class as well.
The specialized training received by an orthodontist focuses on jaw growth and development as well as diagnosing, preventing and treating a wide range of issues including malocclusions and discrepancies in jaw growth. This additional education could be compared to the additional training received by an obstetrician during their residency following general medical training. This extra training prepares the obstetrician to be better qualified than a family doctor to deliver babies, identify possible issues before they cause problems and to respond correctly to any complications that may arise.
Experience is another big difference that sets orthodontists apart from regular dentists. Since orthodontists correct facial profiles, straighten teeth and create attractive smiles, they get significant experience over the course of treating hundreds of patients a year. Regular dentists, however, may only handle a small number of these types of cases each year among all their usual work. The combination of orthodontic training with plenty of experience makes orthodontists better able to tell the difference between simple and complex cases. When cases become more difficult to handle, orthodontists can more easily take care of these problems to reach a positive outcome.
Finally, orthodontists are frequently as affordable as dentists for more advanced care. Many people are surprised that orthodontists’ fees are often about equal to those of dentists. Greater efficiency is often to thank for this. Orthodontists and their staff are specially trained and possess all the necessary equipment for focusing on orthodontic treatments. General dentists, on the other hand, may only perform occasional orthodontic work between their normal dental work. This causes fees to be similar, but the specialized experience and equipment of the orthodontist provides an optimal result to the patient.
In conclusion, there are many excellent dentists providing general dental care and basic orthodontic procedures to patients with good outcomes. There are, however, many clear advantages to choosing an orthodontist when you want to have an amazing smile created by an expert.