Difference Between a Dentist And Orthodontist

Difference Between a Dentist And Orthodontist

Most people are well aware that effective dental care is an important component in their overall wellness regimen. However, it is sometimes difficult to determine precisely what type of dental is right for you. Depending on what issues you are experiencing, you may be asking, “Should I see a dentist, an orthodontist, or both?” When it comes down to it, the answer to that questions really depends on your personal needs and goals.

To determine if you are in need of care from a dentist or orthodontic professional, learn exactly what role each plays as well as what the difference really is between the two care providers. Then determine which type of care is right for you.

What Is a Dentist?

You’ve probably regularly seen a dentist at one point in your life or another. Most individuals visit the dentist on a regular basis for both cleanings and x-rays to maintain good oral health. This field is broader but focuses on the overall oral health, including the teeth, gums, mouth, and jaw. Dental professionals are able to treat a number of oral health concerns and diseases, such as cavities, decay, and gingivitis. Dentists are also licensed to perform many oral surgeries and procedures, like root canals, as necessary.

For the average individual, visiting the dentist twice a year is the best routine care. Typically one visit is designated for just a cleaning, and the other is intended for a cleaning as well as x-rays to determine if you have any jaw or mouth concerns.

What Is an Orthodontist?

A dentist provides broad level oral care. An orthodontic professional is a licensed specialist who focuses on the correction of irregularities, such as crowded and/or crooked teeth as well as an over- or under-bite. To become an orthodontic provider, a dental professional must complete two years of coursework specific to the field of orthodontics beyond that required of dentists.

An orthodontic professional begins by evaluating your bite to determine if you need braces or other specialized dental treatment. Common issues treated by orthodontists include crooked or misaligned teeth. Likewise, individuals may seek orthodontic care for superficial or even just aesthetic concerns. In some cases, orthodontic issues may contribute to more serious concerns, such as headaches, speech issues, lockjaw, and even bone destruction. For that reason, it’s imperative to speak with your general dentist if you suspect you may need orthodontic care.




The general recommendation by the American Association of Orthodontics is that children visit an orthodontic professional by the age of 7 if not before. Doing so enables the dental care provide to identify potential problems early on and begin treatment as needed to best support the child’s development and growth.

What Are the Major Differences Between Dental Care Providers?

While there is a certain extent of overlap in dental or orthodontic care, they are not the same. You can look at it like this: every orthodontic professional is a qualified dentist, but not every dentist is a licensed orthodontist. Orthodontic dental professionals specialize in the alignment of the teeth and jaws whereas dentists focus on care of the teeth and smile – making these components healthier through cleaning, x-rays, and surgery.

You should see a dentist if you:

  • Are concerned about the overall health of your gums and/or teeth
  • Suspect that you have a cavity, advanced decay, or a gum disease
  • Hope to learn more about how to best prevent disease and other dental issues

Your dentist will evaluate your current state of oral health and provide or suggest the hygienic care you need to improve that health.

You should visit an orthodontic professional if:

  • Your teeth appear crooked, overcrowded, or misaligned
  • You have a noticeable over- or under-bite
  • Your teeth have begun to impact your ability to chew or speak
  • Your teeth are causing you aches or pains

Your orthodontic professional will evaluate your teeth for alignment concerns to determine the best steps to correct your bite.

The field of cosmetic dentistry combines aspects of both orthodontics and dentistry. This is a specialized field that focuses almost entirely on improving the aesthetic appearance of your smile through such treatments as whitening, veneers, and crows. This type of care creates a noticeably healthier smile without braces, which is often a good option for individuals who don’t want to have to go through the process of traditional orthodontics.

Another component of cosmetic dentistry is Invisalign. Invisalign is a treatment that utilizes a series of clear trays that are fitted to your mouth and used to realign your teeth. Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign aligners appear nearly invisible, making them ideal for those who don’t want to be encumbered with wires and brackets. This form of treatment has been found to be just as effective as typical treatment and has a number of success stories to support those claims.

At any rate, good oral health care is important so your teeth appear as clean and bright as possible. More importantly, though, this practice will help you maintain your natural teeth as long as possible by avoiding decay and disease. Likewise, these oral health concerns can actually lead to more complex issues, such as obesity, malnutrition, or even heart disease.

If left untreated even just one tooth can create a series of issues in your mouth. If the issue progresses, infection or even loss of the jawbone or movement of teeth may result. It’s most effective to treat each issue as it arises – whether it requires dental or orthodontic care.

Call Tisseront Orthodontics Today To Schedule an Appointment

At Tisseront Orthodontics in Reston, Va., you can have an examination from our knowledgeable orthodontist. Dr. Stephen Tisseront provides orthodontic treatments for adults, teenagers, and children with these devices:

• Aligners – designed using Invisalign software
• Braces – metal, ceramic and lingual
• Retainers – to keep teeth in position after orthodontic treatment ends
• Surgical orthodontics – removal of baby or extra teeth

Our patients can have iTero arch wires designed at our orthodontic office, and we also offer Acceledent Aura devices to reduce treatment time. Call us today at 703-773-1200 to schedule an examination with Dr. Tisseront in our state-of-the-art orthodontic facility.

Difference Between a Dentist And Orthodontist

Tisseront Orthodontics
11720 Plaza America Drive, Ste. 110 Reston VA 20190-4762

Phone: (703)773-1200