General Dentist Vs. Orthodontist – What’s the Difference?

Often, we use the medical terms “dentist” and “orthodontist” interchangeably, to refer to the same person. This comes naturally to a lay person as for them both the professionals belong to the same broad category wherein they specialize in dental and oral care. In reality, dentist and orthodontist are two distinct job roles with varying job responsibilities. The difference between the two has been highlighted under the following categories.

Education and Credentials

This is a major point of distinction. A dentist is a licensed doctor who has a post-graduate degree from an accredited school in addition to a bachelor’s degree from medical school. An orthodontist on the other hand, is a licensed dentist who has completed an additional two-year program in orthodontics.


Dentists are responsible for a patient’s overall oral health. They evaluate the teeth and gums for problems. Based on the assessment, they recommend the necessary corrective procedures. Dentists deal with issues such as tooth decay, plaque and tartar clean up and gum disease. They also look for symptoms of disease in the throat and neck region. Additionally a dentist advises patients on practicing good oral hygiene to prevent oral and dental problems.

orthodontists-in-edmonton-yorktownpubUnlike dentists, orthodontists tackle specific issues concerning oral health. This includes correcting misaligned teeth and jaws, termed malocclusions in dental jargon. It is done for practical and cosmetic purposes. Orthodontic specialists fit patients with braces and retainers. They are trained in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, which is training in correcting facial irregularities. By correcting the alignment of the teeth and jaws, orthodontists correct problems such as overbite, underbite, crossbite, over crowed teeth, widely spaced teeth and crooked teeth.


If we measure dentists and orthodontists in terms of their ranks, the latter ranks higher than the former. A general dentist after assessing the condition of the teeth and the gums will refer a patient to a specialist. The specialist is either an orthodontist for teeth and jaw alignment or an oral surgeon for a wisdom tooth extraction.

Dentists vs. Orthodontists – At a glance

  1. Dentists have a post-graduate degree while orthodontists are dentists with additional 2-year training in orthodontics.
  2. Dentists look into problems such as oral hygiene and tooth and gum care. Orthodontists correct the alignment of teeth and jaws using non-surgical options.
  3. An orthodontist is a licensed dentist, but a dentist is not a qualified orthodontist.
  4. A dentist offers general care and treatment while an orthodontist offers specialist care and treatment.
  5. Also, orthodontists earn more than a general dentist.

Now that you know the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist, you know who to consult for a given problem. If you are looking for an orthodontist, Embrace should be your first choice when thinking of making that call.