7 Truths About Dentists and Orthodontists – Why Go to An Orthodontist When You Already Have a Dentist?
Many people are confused about the differences between a dentist and an orthodontist. They think if they have a dentist they are happy with, that dentist can take care of anything that happens to their teeth or in their mouth. Why would they need to seek out a specialist?
Nowadays, the line between a specialist and a dentist who does braces has been blurred by advertising. This article will explain the differences between the two related fields and will offer guidance about which one will serve you best, depending on your needs.
Truth #1 – Orthodontists Have Specialized Extra Training
Every orthodontist is also a dentist. But not every dentist is an orthodontist. Only about 6% of all dental school graduates choose to extend their education and become orthodontists.
There are three steps in every orthodontist’s education: college, dental school and orthodontic residency program. It can take 10 or more years of education after high school to become an orthodontist.
After dental school, orthodontists go through an additional two to three years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program to receive their license to practice orthodontics. Only those who have successfully completed this formal education may call themselves “orthodontists”.
During the orthodontic program is when future orthodontists learn the skills to manage tooth movement (orthodontics) and guide facial development (dentofacial orthopedics). Orthodontists are trained to correct overbites, underbites, crossbites and ensure that your teeth are properly aligned and all the spaces are closed.
Truth #2 – Some Dentists Perform Orthodontic Treatments
Thanks to classes and seminars that offer continuing education, dentists are able to take courses that give them the ability to perform certain orthodontic treatments. Despite this additional training, the fact remains most dentists who offer orthodontic procedures simply don’t have as much experience or knowledge as an orthodontist.
The same way that you wouldn’t ask your orthodontist to have your cavities filled or a crown placed, even though they know how to do it, it doesn’t make sense to go to a general dentist to have braces fitted or some other orthodontic treatment performed. That isn’t their area of expertise.
Truth #3 – Most Dentists Refer Patients with Orthodontic Needs to Orthodontists
Dentists specialize in dentistry. When they see a patient who have crooked teeth or crowding, the vast majority of dentists recommend an orthodontist. This alone should let you know how important it is for you to see an orthodontic specialist for those kinds of issues.
They simply have different specializations. Dentists are thoroughly knowledgeable about oral health care and successfully treat and prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Orthodontists specialize in alignment of your teeth and jaws. A beautiful smile depends on professionals in both specialized areas.
Truth #4 – Your Child Should See an Orthodontist by Age 7
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) advises that children should see an orthodontist no later than seven years of age. Orthodontists use their knowledge and experience to identify potential issues as early as possible.
The earlier the potential issues are detected, the better they are able to help guide and correct the early growth and development of your child’s mouth, teeth, and jaw. Problems may include bite abnormalities, such as overbite, underbite, or crossbite, as well as crowded teeth, which may require early intervention.
Interceptive orthodontics may begin as early as age 6 or 7. For example, an orthodontic appliance called a palatal expander may be used to expand the child’s upper dental arch.
Truth #5 – Orthodontic Problems Are Not Just An Aesthetic Concern
Misaligned, crowded or crooked teeth can pose a much greater problem than just being unattractive. If left untreated they can become the cause of headaches, earaches, speech impediments, lockjaw, chewing issues, and even bone destruction. And that’s not all.
In addition to the conditions listed above, if left untreated, orthodontic problems such as malocclusions or bad bites can cause premature wear of the teeth and protective enamel, and even increase the chance of injury to the teeth and jaw joints.
Crowded teeth can be difficult to brush and floss properly at home. Improper cleaning can lead to a build-up of bacteria and plaque that could cause tooth decay, cavities, gum disease or other dental issues. Straightening out your crooked teeth to the proper position will not only give you a more attractive smile, but it will also position your teeth for optimal dental health.
Truth #6 – Adults May Need Orthodontic Treatment As Well
Many times, people think orthodontic treatment is just for children. When you think of braces, the image of teenagers often pops into your mind. While it’s true it’s often easier to correct misalignments and bite issues when the patient is younger, today it’s not at all uncommon to see adults getting some long overdue orthodontic care. As an adult, patients may have a better opportunity and/or be more motivated to get these problems fixed.
Healthy teeth can be moved at any age, so there is no such thing as being too old for braces. Appliances that are barely noticeable such as Invisalign have been developed to give adults more discreet choices when it comes to orthodontic treatment. And many adults realize that investing in a smile makeover can have significant benefits, socially and professionally.
Sometimes the issues that start in childhood and are not corrected can become a real problem when you reach adulthood, like teeth grinding and Temporal Mandibular Joint (TMJ) problems.
Truth #7 – Only an Orthodontist is Trained to Handle Orthodontic Issues
There is no substitution for the additional extended, intensive training and education that orthodontists receive. They are the only ones you should trust to diagnose and treat any issues that involve safe and proper tooth movement, which is the essence of orthodontics.
Orthodontists are also educated in dentofacial orthopedics, which includes guiding your facial, jaw and dental development. This is the basis and primary focus of the orthodontist’s practice and these problems should not be left in the hands of a general dentist.
Most of the malocclusion issues can be resolved with the application of corrective appliances inside the mouth. These can be conventional braces or braces attached to the backside of the teeth. Even clear aligners such as Invisalign can be used to help move the teeth into their proper places. However, none of these treatment options should be undertaken by anyone without the proper qualifications.
This article is not meant to cast aspersions on dentists. They are highly respected in their field and provide valuable services to men, women and children with regard to their oral health.
There are times you will need to see a dentist, and it is important to have one you can trust and depend on. You should see your dentist for checkups on a regular basis, so if a problem develops, it can be caught early and corrective measures can be taken.
Sometimes those corrective measures include procedures that need to be performed by an orthodontist. And just like having a good dentist, it is important to have a good orthodontist you can trust and depend on. Chances are, at some point in your life, you will need both.
Have You Ever Had an Orthodontic Treatment (Braces, Headgear, Invisalign, etc)? If so, How Old Were You? Comment Below!