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Today, we have a guest post from a friend and fellow Papillion orthodontist, Dr. Nathan Hawley, of Hawley Orthodontics. Dr. Hawley will be sharing his knowledge of the differences between a dentist and an orthodontist.

Ever wonder why your dentist doesn’t give you braces or Invisalign? Or why you still need to see your dentist when you’re undergoing treatment with your Henderson orthodontist? While dentists and orthodontists are both committed to helping patients achieve beautiful, healthy smiles, many people don’t realize that there’s a big difference between what dentists and orthodontists do and how they treat your teeth.

The doctors at Okuda & Noorda Orthodontics are certified orthodontic specialists. This means that after dental school, Dr. Okuda and Dr. Noorda both completed specialty training in orthodontics. Dr. Okuda is also going the extra mile to become a board-certified orthodontist, and Dr. Noorda already is one! So, all orthodontists are dentists first — but not all dentists go on to become orthodontists. Make sense? Well, that’s just the basics. Read on to learn all about the differences between dentists and orthodontists.

What’s the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?

When you have a cold or a minor health issue that requires medical attention, you go to see your general practitioner. But if you have a bigger health problem, like recovering from a broken ankle, your GP will refer you to a specialist, like a physiotherapist. The same applies to dentists vs orthodontists.

Basically, a dentist is like your general practitioner, equipped to treat your teeth, gums and general oral health. An orthodontist, on the other hand, is a specialist with the expertise to prevent, diagnose and treat dental and facial issues. Who you need to see depends on your unique situation and personal goals for your smile. If all you need is general oral health maintenance, you’ll be in great hands with a dentist. But if you’re looking to improve your jaw and smile with orthodontic treatment, such as braces or Invisalign, you’ll need to see your Henderson orthodontist.

Dentists vs Orthodontist: Who Does What?

We know it can get confusing to figure out who does what when it comes to your oral health care. Let’s break it down step by step so you can better understand the differences between orthodontists and dentists.

Dentists are:

  • Your oral health generalists. Remember, your dentist is like a general practitioner for your teeth. More importantly, they’re equally as important as orthodontists. Dentists keep your teeth healthy and strong, and create the foundation for lifelong oral health.
  • Not trained in orthodontics. After completing a bachelor’s degree, all dentists must obtain either a Doctorate in Dental Surgery or a Doctorate in Dental Medicine from an accredited dental school. However, they do not have orthodontic specialist education.
  • Your go-to for routine dental work. As we’ve mentioned, a dentist takes care of all general teeth maintenance, like regular checkups, routine cleanings and dental exams, as well dental procedures like fillings, crowns and so on.

Orthodontists are:

  • Your oral health specialists. Again, orthodontists are specially trained in orthodontics, giving them the knowledge to prevent, diagnose and treat oral health issues and facial irregularities.
  • Highly trained in orthodontics. What exactly does that mean? In addition to completing all the requirements to become a dentist, orthodontists complete two to three more years of specialty training in an orthodontic residency program.
  • Your go-to for corrective or preventive dental intervention. While dentists focus on day-to-day dental issues, orthodontists focus on developmental concerns that require orthodontic intervention. This may include correcting the size, positioning or spacing of the teeth and jaw. Your Henderson orthodontist will assess and diagnose your issue, then create a customized orthodontic treatment plan to help you achieve the smile of your dreams.

When to See an Orthodontist

It’s recommended that patients start going to the dentist by age one and continue regular visits throughout their lives. But, as we’ve seen, orthodontics and dentistry are quite different! While everyone needs a dentist, not everyone needs an orthodontist. That said, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all patients have an orthodontic evaluation at the age of seven.

During this free orthodontic consultation, your Henderson orthodontist, Dr. Okuda or Dr. Noorda, will evaluate the teeth and jaw to make sure oral development is on track. Usually, we’ll simply continue to monitor the child’s progress and watch for any red flags that might pop up. If we spot an issue during this initial visit (or at any point in your child’s development), we can intervene with orthodontic treatment to guide their continued growth. Early intervention is key to preventive orthodontics, which refers to orthodontic treatment that anticipates and solves oral health problems before they can cause lasting damage.

However, if your child is over seven years old and hasn’t seen an orthodontist yet, don’t panic! Patients of any age can come to Okuda & Noorda Orthodontics for a free consultation. While earlier is better, it’s never too late to begin orthodontic treatment and it can have a significant impact on your life.

Orthodontic treatment is about a whole lot more than getting a more appealing smile — it can improve your overall health, prevent tooth decay and gum disease, align your bite to reduce jaw pain or headaches, and make speaking and chewing easier. Straightening your teeth can also give you a major confidence boost by giving you a smile you’re proud to show off.

Ready to book your free orthodontist consultation with Dr. Noorda or Dr. Okuda? Call your Henderson orthodontists today.

About Dr. Nathan Hawley 

Papillon, NE Orthodontist, Dr. Nathan Hawley was born and raised in sunny California and has always had a love for football, a good BBQ and the great outdoors. He is dedicated to providing his Omaha area patients with personalized, high-quality care in a fun atmosphere. He relies on advanced technology, his extensive training and knowledge and an amazing team to achieve fantastic results.

Dr. Okuda

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