Do You Need to Visit a Dentist or an Orthodontist?

When trying to learn about issues involving your teeth, you'll often hear about two specific types of specialists: dentists and orthodontists. As the names suggest, they both help people take care of their teeth, but their jobs can be very different.

What a Dentist Does

A dentist handles a wide range of jobs, but their primary goal is to keep teeth healthy and to address any repairs that need to be performed. When you go to a dental services office, you'll also find that the dentist gets a lot of support from a hygienist, a professional whose focus is on performing teeth cleanings and seeing that the gums are healthy. The dentist typically addresses more of the repair side of things, but you will see some at smaller practices handle both restorative and preventative work.

Many of the tasks we think of as essential dental work are done by a dentist. This includes doing fillings and extractions, and dentists also deal with root canals, crowns, and veneers. Some dentists will even handle more advanced work, such as oral surgery and putting in implants, although many will send their patients to a dedicated oral surgeon.

What an Orthodontist Does

An orthodontic services practice is largely in the business of straightening teeth. While you might typically associate orthodontists with braces being put in or taken out, the profession covers many other jobs, too. The advent of options like aligners has also opened up different approaches to the teeth-straightening aspect of the profession.

In addition to straightening teeth, your orthodontist can also address concerns about the alignment of your bite. This can include deciding what to do about overbites, underbites, and other misalignments. The goal in orthodontics is to use a slow process to ensure all your teeth line up to produce a smile that looks good and works well for chewing.

You'll Go to a Dentist First

Even if you're sure that your only issue is that your teeth are crooked, your first trip is likely going to be to a general dental services provider. The point of this practice is to ensure that all your teeth are healthy prior to having pressure put on them with braces or aligners. If a tooth has even the beginnings of a cavity, for example, applying pressure over months may cause the tooth to chip or fracture. Once you have good X-rays, the orthodontist will see you.