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The Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist

Posted in Alberta, General, Orthodontics, Tips & Advice

Puzzled about what's the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist? We discuss similarities and contrasts between the two in this post, along with issues your Calgary orthodontist can help correct. 

You see your dentist for a twice-yearly dental exam and cleaning and have perhaps had a dental emergency or two in your life, but what about orthodontists? What can they do, and which oral health issues can they help resolve? We explore similarities and differences in dentists vs. orthodontists. 

How are a dentist and an orthodontist similar?

The primary similarity between a dentist and an orthodontist is that they both take care of their patients' oral health. These professionals can both work in a dental office, and an orthodontist can provide the same care as a dentist. They are also both considered doctors, and both can help keep our teeth and gums healthy. 

What's the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?

When it comes to looking at how an orthodontist and dentist help their patients, it's helpful to define the difference in their specialties. Dentistry is a broad medical specialty that deals with the jaw, nerves, teeth and gums, while orthodontics is a specialty within dentistry that focuses on helping to straighten teeth and correct bites and misalignment.

It's not entirely accurate to think of dentists vs. orthodontists as two opposing professions; in fact, many people have both as part of their oral healthcare team. One important difference is that while all orthodontists like the ones at myORTHODONTIST are dentists, not all dentists are licensed orthodontists. 

Here are some other important differences between dentists and orthodontists:


  • Dentists graduate with a general dental degree.
  • A general dentist is similar to your family doctor and plays an essential role in your general dental health. They provide a wide range of services from dental cleanings to placing fillings and other restorations. 
  • Dentists are not trained at university in putting on braces or working with clear aligners. 
  • Many dentists refer patients who need orthodontic treatment to a certified orthodontic specialist. 


  • An orthodontist has additional education in the specialty of orthodontics; they complete a dental degree, then a three-year specialist degree 
  • Orthodontists specialize in dental development, facial growth, and tooth and jaw alignment. Appropriate early intervention can decrease the need for invasive orthodontic treatment later and lead to a better opportunity for ideal treatment outcomes. 
  • Orthodontists offer a range of treatment options including traditional braces, clear aligners and retainers, and can help you pick the most suitable one for you.
  • Orthodontists can also help fit patients for corrective braces, appliances and devices. If you have a crossbite, crowded teeth or other treatable orthodontic condition, your dentist can refer you to our team. 

Dentists typically encourage and support good preventive oral hygiene and provide services related to:

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Bridges
  • Crowns
  • Root canals 
  • Veneers 
  • Teeth whitening 

What issues can my orthodontist help correct?

Orthodontists can help patients with the conditions listed above. While a dentist may be trained to provide orthodontic care along with fillings, TMJ treatments and extractions, our orthodontists can offer solutions for whole-body well-being by establishing an overall balance for dento-facial health, improving airway issues and helping to build personal confidence with straighter smiles. 

Orthodontists specialize in teeth alignment and provide services associated with:

  • Crowded teeth
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • Temporomandibular disorders (TMD)
  • Spacing between teeth

We take a non-invasive, 2-phase approach to orthodontics for all ages - children, teens and adults. With early preventive treatment of children, often starting with an early orthodontic assessment by age 7, we may be able to help minimize the need for invasive treatments such as surgery or extractions long-term. 

Schedule your consultation with our Calgary orthodontists at myORTHODONTIST to find out if Invisalign is the right fit for you.

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