“I’m going to the orthodontist to get my braces!”

Whether you are an adult or a teenager, it is pretty common to hear that somebody you know is getting braces. But why do they go to the orthodontist instead of the dentist?

It is common knowledge that you should see your dentist twice a year to check up on your teeth and for a thorough cleaning, but when should you visit an orthodontist? How are these two professions different when they both relate to teeth?

Read on to find out more about the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist!

dentist with patient


The main similarity between a dentist and orthodontist is that they both focus on oral care, pertaining to the teeth, mouth, and gums. They are both doctors, and an orthodontist can be found in a dental office and is usually qualified to do a dentist’s job if the situation calls for it.


While both dentists and orthodontists specialise in improving the oral health of their patients, both jobs have vastly different scopes. Dentistry is a broad term that pertains to oral care and deals with the teeth, gum, nerves, and jaw.

On the other hand, orthodontics is one of nine specialisations within dentistry itself with a focus on improving the straightness of teeth by correcting bites and occlusion. This can be for both cosmetic reasons and health-related ones.

They help patients with the alignment of their teeth and fit them for corrective braces and devices, which can improve a patient’s physical appearance. But that is not all — making sure that your teeth are aligned can reduce the risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease while ensuring that your chewing muscles function just fine.

Because orthodontists are specialists, dentists who find that a patient has a specific problem such as a bad bite, known as a malocclusion, will send them to the orthodontist to be treated. Orthodontists have a variety of tools at their disposal to correct these problems, such as braces, retainers, and other headgear designed to move teeth into better positions and retrain muscles.

In fact, orthodontists are required to undergo additional schooling to specialise in orthodontics, just like how a surgeon would need to spend a few more years in school than a doctor. Therefore, it is possible to say that all orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are licensed orthodontists.

While there might be an overlap in the services offered by a dentist and an orthodontist, do take note of the difference between the two. Orthodontists usually stick to their specialisation and offer limited dental services.

On the other hand, dentists may advertise orthodontic treatments, but only a dental professional who has undergone the relevant training and completed the coursework can be known as a licensed orthodontist.

Who should I call?

Now that you know the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist, it is much easier to make a decision on who to call when you have a dental problem. If it is a toothache, you go to the dentist for a diagnosis and a treatment.

However, if you have already been to an orthodontist and your braces are giving you trouble, it is best to head back to the orthodontist as they would know best.

If you have more questions on whether your dental problem would fall under orthodontics or general dentistry, please feel free to send us an enquiry! We are always happy to answer any questions you have and put misconceptions to rest.