Dentist Vs Orthodontist: Who Should I Go To?

Dentist Vs Orthodontist: Who Should I Go To?

Your goal is a great, healthy smile. Both dentists and orthodontists can be great for helping achieve that dream. As experts in dentistry and orthodontics in Fairfax, VA, we see patients seeking all types of dental care. 

Here’s what you need to know about the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist, and when to choose which.

How are orthodontists and dentists different?

Dentists and orthodontists both specialize in patient smiles. Overall, dentists focus on general gum, tooth and overall dental health, while orthodontists are specialists in aligning your teeth and jaws to ensure a better, more aesthetically pleasing bite. 

Both dentists and orthodontists complete rigorous schooling including four years of dental school and licensing exams. Orthodontists attend an additional residency program and complete additional board certification. A general dentist can perform some orthodontic treatments, but cannot claim to be an orthodontist unless certified. 

Dentists vs. Orthodontists: What to expect

In general, your dentist is your first port of call, being the oral health expert you see for your regular dental checkups and cleanings. Your dentist is in charge of: 

  • Checkups to identify tooth decay, gum health and oral hygiene issues
  • Fillings, crowns, veneers, extractions, and some root canal procedures
  • Some cosmetic procedures such as tooth whitening
  • Referrals to other specialists such as endodontists, oral surgeons or orthodontists

In contrast, an orthodontist is a dentistry specialist who can assist with treatments such as:

  • Correcting an overbite or underbite, or aligning the jaws
  • Supervising the growth of children’s jawlines and bites
  • Widening or adjusting the palate
  • Performing teeth straightening surgery
  • Traditional or lingual braces, Invisalign, or other treatments to correct crowding or crooked teeth 

While a dentist is someone you might see for life, you’ll generally only see your orthodontist for the duration of your treatment. 

When to see a dentist vs. an orthodontist in Reston, VA

Not sure who to make your appointment with? If you’re after a general dental exam, a filling, have a toothache, or are interested in straightforward cosmetic improvements such as teeth whitening, talk to your dentist. If you would like to have your bite corrected or your teeth aligned, or you’ve broken an existing piece of orthodontic hardware, an orthodontist is the person to call. However, if you’re not sure what your situation requires, your dentist will always be happy to refer you to the right specialist. 

At Optimal Dental Center, we offer both! Not only do we offer a variety of general dentistry but also offer orthodontic services to help you achieve the smile of your dreams. Whether you’re seeking a general dentist or an expert in orthodontics in the northern Virginia area, please reach out to us. We’ll help guide you towards the right choice for your needs.