Are you in Oklahoma City, unsure if you need an orthodontist or dentist for your mouth issues?

You’re probably familiar with the basic services of a dentist, like cleanings, fillings, and crowns. Have you considered who might take care of more specific problems, like crooked teeth?

You might be surprised that over 4 million Americans wear braces, and a million of these are adults. When a dentist notices certain dental problems that are outside their general area of expertise, they will refer the patient to a specialist.

Even without a referral, some patients may contact a dental expert like an orthodontist because they are unhappy with the appearance of their teeth, and their dentist can’t fix it.

We’re going to compare the two professions, so you know who you need and when. Read on!

Orthodontist or Dentist?

Both orthodontists and dentists offer dental solutions for issues with your mouth, and there is some overlap between the services they offer. That’s because they both start with the same training and education.

First, they complete four years of undergraduate education at college for a pre-dentistry/medical degree. Next, there are another four years at a graduate school of dentistry. A series of qualification exams follow, notably the National Dental Exam, before they receive their clinical practice license.

If successful, the graduate will now become a dentist, either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD).

The path deviates here, and a general dentist will likely choose to immediately enter practice, while an orthodontist (or other dental specialists) will continue their education. The continued certification includes a 2-3 year residency and many thousands of hours of training in orthodontics.

After residency, there are additional certification tests that they need to pass before an orthodontist is qualified to practice orthodontics.

What Is a Dentist?

Dentists are oral health specialists who carry out a range of care services. They are doctors that promote good oral hygiene and disease prevention while diagnosing diseases in the mouth when they do arise.

A dentist will create a treatment plan for their patients to restore optimum oral health. In the course of their work, they need the ability to interpret an x-ray. They will perform diagnostic tests to get an accurate picture of what’s going on in your mouth.

They will often perform surgery on a tooth or surrounding tissue and bone, so they are trained to use anesthesia safely. A dentist will also keep an eye on your teeth and jaw and track them as they develop over time.

A dentist will usually be in charge of a team that includes assistants and hygienists. Some procedures that a dentist might perform are dental exams, cleanings, fillings, crowns, and extractions.

What Is an Orthodontist?

Orthodontics is a dental specialism that focused on correcting the position of teeth and the jaw when they are out of alignment. Patients tend to visit an orthodontist for a specific treatment and usually only visit them until the treatment plan is complete.

In practice, an Orthodontist will straighten crooked and misaligned teeth. They can also help correct teeth that do not fit together correctly due to problems with the bite. Bite issues that may lead your dentist to refer you to an orthodontist include:

  • Overbite (upper teeth protrude over lower teeth)
  • Underbite (lower teeth protrude under upper teeth)
  • Crossbite (upper teeth don’t meet lower teeth correctly)
  • Open bite (spaces in the biting surfaces when teeth meet)
  • Deep bite (front teeth cover bottom teeth when the mouth is closed)
  • Crowding (overlapping/rotated teeth due to lack of space)
  • Spacing (large gaps between teeth for various reasons)

Why Visit a Dentist?

A dentist is similar to a doctor in that you tend to visit them regularly throughout a lifetime for general wellness check-ups. You also see a dentist to address specific problems in your mouth.

When a condition is outside the realm of the expertise of a general dentist, they will make a referral. This referral might be to a specialist like an oral surgeon or an orthodontist.

The reasons for a regular dental visit are plentiful. For one thing, routine check-ups can discover cavities in their early stages. Quick treatment of a cavity means that it is less like to progress into a more serious tooth issue.

They can also identify gum disease, even though you might be unaware that you have it. At your regular exam and cleaning, the dentist will usually check for signs of oral cancer as well as ensuring that all your fillings are healthy and intact.

Oral health is linked to your general physical health, so visiting a dentist is important in the prevention of other diseases that could be indirectly triggered.

Why Visit an Orthodontist?

Among other things, you might visit an orthodontist in OKC for braces and retainers. Teeth that aren’t correctly aligned are a challenge to clean, so face a higher risk for disease and decay.

Misaligned teeth can also put an increased strain on the muscles involved in chewing food. This can, in turn, cause headaches as well as pain radiating elsewhere in the body.

Temporomandibular (TMJ) pain and disorders may follow from bite problems. The TMJ acts like a sliding hinge and connects the skull to the jawbone. The corrective treatment plan prescribed by your orthodontist can remedy the conditions above.

An orthodontist will use a variety of fixed and/or removable appliances to help relocate the teeth over time, recondition muscles, and influence jaw development. Fixed appliances tend to get better results faster, but removable appliances are popular choices for patients who prefer not to have metal wires and brackets visible.

Whether you choose metal, ceramic, or Invisalign, an OKC orthodontist has all types of braces and aligners to fit your lifestyle or preference.

Perfect Alignment

We’ve covered the main reasons you’d need either an orthodontist or dentist. Don’t let crooked teeth and jaw pain dominate your life. An orthodontic treatment plan can have you pain-free and smiling again.

If you’re a family in need of an Oklahoma City orthodontist or a referral dentist, we can help you. We are an orthodontic practice, providing comprehensive care for kids, teens, and adults.

Contact us today to schedule a digital consultation.

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