Most people know that there is a difference between a dentist and an orthodontist. While both work at helping people achieve a healthy smile and good oral health, the difference lies in the services they offer. Recently, there is another category that comes up — dentists that offer orthodontic treatments. It can all get a little confusing regarding who does what, so we thought we’d provide an explanation.
What Orthodontists Specialize In
All licensed orthodontists were dentists first. And all dentists go through extensive education and training to become licensed professionals. Orthodontists, however, go back to school for further studies and training. This allows them to offer expertise in treatments in “malocclusion”. This word literally means “bad bite” and refers to things like an overbite or under bite, or other conditions like poorly aligned jaws and teeth.
Orthodontists go to school for ten years or more and study a wide range of things like genetics, embryology and human growth and development. They also do a great deal of hands-on training so that they can diagnose and offer treatment for many different dental issues.
After many years of school and practice, orthodontists can offer treatments like braces, jaw realignment surgery and other specialty surgeries. The extra training and education equals more than 4,000 extra hours of study and work. Upon finishing, they have a great deal of hands on experience when they enter the work force as an orthodontist.
What Dentists Specialize In
Dentists, on the other hand, usually begin practicing once their studies and training are complete. They have gone to school for up to eight years and are well equipped to deal with issues like filling teeth, making crowns, bridges, and dentures, and performing simple root canals and extractions. Dentistry is a highly respectable and difficult profession to get into, and we applaud all of the amazing dentists out there.
These days there is some confusion because non-accredited universities, or for-profit schools, offer certification to dentists in orthodontic treatment. While we respect all doctors and people who want to develop their skill set, it can be misleading to patients who are looking for a licensed orthodontist. In some cases, dentists have received an orthodontic treatment certificate after just a couple of days, whereas orthodontists go to school for several extra years and put in literally thousands of extra hours of study!
Therefore, if you are looking for an orthodontic treatment like braces or jaw realignment to correct an overbite or underbite, make sure to do your research first. Here at South Surrey Smiles, we have licensed orthodontists who are proud of the education they have achieved and the experience they have worked hard for. When it comes to dentists that offer orthodontic treatment, it can be worrisome to see that there are dentists who are offering advice and treatments when they don’t have the full scope of training behind them.
Oral treatments are not something to be taken lightly, and specialists are specialists for a reason — they have the expertise and knowledge to perform these tasks safely. Think about it this way — you wouldn’t go to your general doctor for brain surgery, would you?
We hope that this short clears up any confusion one might have. And if you have any further questions about what an orthodontist can do for you, feel free to contact us at South Surrey Smiles.
Dr. Lesley Williams is a Certified Specialist in Orthodontics. She grew up in Victoria, BC with her parents and two sisters.
After being awarded her Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD) degree in 1989, Dr. Williams then spent six years as a dentist in general practice before deciding that she wanted to further her education by undertaking three extra years of highly specialized training in orthodontics. With her Masters in Science (Orthodontics) degree under her belt, she went on to sit the Orthodontic Specialty Fellowship exams through the Royal College of Dentists of Canada. To date, her status as an active leader in the orthodontic profession means that she holds the following qualifications and positions:
- Certified Specialist in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
- Fellow of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada
- Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics
- Examiner for the Royal College of Dentists of Canada and the American Board of Orthodontics.
- Former president of the Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists (representing 2900 orthodontists from the 4 western Canadian provinces and 8 western American states).
- Active member of the Edward H. Angle Society of Orthodontists.