Orthodontist or General Dentist? Which is Better for Modern Orthodontic Treatment?

Photo By Michael Browning on Unsplash


Your regular dentist suggested that you start orthodontic treatment with their office. The team shared the treatment plan and an estimate for the costs. It seems like a good idea. After all, you have gone to your dentist for years, so why not allow the practice to take care of your modern orthodontic treatment? However, there are a few differences between your general dentist and an orthodontist that you should know before you say yes. 


What Are Dental Specialties?


One of the most significant differences between a general practitioner or general dentist and an orthodontist is that orthodontists are specialists and general dentists are not. 


The American Dental Association (ADA) recognizes nine specialties:



  • Dental Anesthesiology
  • Dental Public Health
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Oral Medicine
  • Orofacial Pain
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics




As a specialist, orthodontists only diagnose, prevent, intercept, and correct patients’ malocclusion and muscular and skeletal problems in the orofacial area. Orthodontists have at least two more years of training in an orthodontic residency program to learn how to safely move teeth and guide development in the teeth, jaw, and face. 


General dentists evaluate, diagnose, prevent and treat diseases, disorders, and conditions in the oral cavity, maxillofacial area, and adjacent structures. They do not specialize in malocclusion and orofacial structures or any of the other nine specialties recognized by the ADA. 


What Does an Orthodontist Do?


In short, orthodontists use fixed appliances, like braces, and removable appliances, like clear aligners to change how the teeth come together in the mouth. These situations can range from crooked teeth to underbites or overbites to jaw misalignment, among other conditions. In other words, they fix a patients’ bite. It also means that orthodontists don’t do dental restorative procedures like fillings or crowns, as a general dentist would. 


What Does a General Dentist Do?


General dentists handle most of the day-to-day oral health and restorative procedures patients need. In addition, they take care of your overall oral health, which can include taking care of your gums, treating cavities, performing root canals, and replacing failing dentition with crowns and bridges. They are also your first line of preventative care. 


Per the ADA, patients should see a general dentist as their primary source of routine dental care. General dentists then refer patients to specialists when they see conditions in the oral cavity that a specialist would treat.


However, modern technology allows general dentists to do more in these specialty areas than they might have in the past. So, while a general dentist can practice orthodontics, an orthodontist is limited to practicing in the specialty. 


Who Should Handle Your Modern Orthodontic Treatment?


Orthodontists are specialists in modern orthodontic treatment. They only fix bites and the supporting structures of the jaw and face. Per the American Association of Orthodontists, they also have 3,700 hours of orthodontic training focused on the safe movement of teeth that general dentists do not. Orthodontists also understand the growth and development of the teeth, jawbones, facial structure, and soft tissue.


There might be some cases where a general dentist can deliver modern orthodontic treatment with the help of new software and systems, like clear aligner technology. However, the general dentist can only do so much. Also, if there is a problem, a general dentist will not have the amount of experience responding to it as an orthodontist would. Moreover, the general dentist often cannot deliver a customized plan for more complex cases. 


So, should you do your modern orthodontic treatment with a general dentist? You certainly can, but at Bloom Orthodontics, we believe that you want a specialist handling something as critical as your smile—or the smile of someone you love.




To schedule your free consultation today, call Bloom Orthodontics office in Long Beach at 562-421-8883.


Bloom Orthodontics in Long Beach has a long history of improving our patients’ smiles. We provide modern orthodontic treatments delivered with old-fashioned excellence in patient experience. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.




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Conner, Ralph A.; Ring, Malvin E.; Kamen, Saul; Dorfman, Jeffrey. “Dental specialties and subspecialties.” Britannica.com. Web. 17 July 2021. < https://www.britannica.com/science/dentistry/Dental-specialties-and-subspecialties>. 


“General Dentistry.” American Dental Association. Web. 17 July 2021. < https://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/general-dentistry>. 


“What is an Orthodontist?” www.webmd.com. 28 June 2021. Web. 17 July 2021. < https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-an-orthodontist>. 


“Dentists and Other Oral Health Care Providers.” Webmd.com. 9 October 2019. Web. 17 July 2021. < https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/oral-health-care-providers>. 


“Why an Orthodontist is the Definitely-Right Person for Orthodontic Treatment.” American Association of Orthodontists. 9 June 2021. Web. 17 July 2021. < https://www3.aaoinfo.org/blog/why-an-orthodontist-is-the-definitely-right-person-for-orthodontic-treatment/>.