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What’s the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?

By November 6, 2019July 22nd, 2022Orthodontics

In the modern world of technology and social media, you can have anything you could possibly need delivered directly to your door. From mattresses to prescription eyeglasses to clothing and shoes, there are direct-to-consumer brands of all kinds popping up online. It was only a matter of time before someone brought this concept to orthodontics.

Yep, you can now order orthodontic treatments like braces or Invisalign-like aligners online. Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s because it is. The companies that offer these “fast braces” or “six month smiles” make unrealistic promises. They aren’t backed by specialized orthodontists and they could be dangerous.

At The Brace Place, we’re passionate about safe, healthy and customized orthodontic treatment. We provide only the very best care to our Claremore and Tulsa orthodontic patients because we know that not all orthodontic treatments are created equally. Here’s the difference between a dentist and orthodontist, the dangers of DIY treatments, and why a highly trained orthodontic specialist is always the right choice when it comes to straightening your teeth.

Dentist vs. Orthodontist: Who Should I See?

Dentist and orthodontists do a lot of the same things: they take care of people’s teeth and they’re committed to helping patients achieve healthy smiles. But there’s an important distinction to make between dentists and orthodontists: all orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists. This means that all dentists and orthodontists go through dentistry school — but then an orthodontist continues on to specialize in orthodontics. As an orthodontist, Dr. Patel has both his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree and a master’s degree in orthodontics.

Think of it this way: a dentist is a generalist whereas an orthodontist is a specialist. While a dentist has the ability to treat your teeth, gums, jaw and general oral health, a trained orthodontic specialist has the knowledge and expertise to prevent, diagnose and treat dental and facial irregularities.

Just like you see your general practitioner for minor health concerns, you see your dentist for regular check-ups, routine cleanings, dental exams and non-urgent procedures like fillings, crowns or teeth whitening treatments. For bigger concerns that require corrective intervention — like size, positioning or spacing of the teeth and jaw — your dentist will refer you to an orthodontist. As a specialist, an orthodontist focuses solely on orthodontics. They’ll diagnose your issue and create a customized treatment plan to improve your smile, usually involving braces or Invisalign.

The Dangers of Direct-to Consumer and DIY Orthodontics

So you’ve been thinking about improving your smile for a while, but have been hesitant about starting treatment because it might take longer than you’d like. We hear this all the time from our Tulsa and Claremore orthodontic patients. People want their new smile — fast — and they think braces or Invisalign will feel like a lifetime.

Direct-to-consumer orthodontic companies play into this need for instant gratification. Their ads pop up all over Instagram and Facebook, promising to straighten people’s teeth in six months or less. We understand the allure of a quick, easy way to get the smile of your dreams but here’s the truth: there’s no “quick fix” when it comes to orthodontics.

These brands are basically offering DIY orthodontics — no orthodontist, no regulation and no guarantees for results. They don’t involve professional dental x-rays, instead relying on at-home impressions that cannot give an accurate picture of your orthodontic needs. DIY systems also focus solely on straightening your front teeth and fail to address overall bite concerns. At best, these types of treatment will lead to results that don’t last. At worst, they can cause damage to your teeth, jaw, gums and bite, meaning you’ll need more extensive orthodontic treatment in the long run.

What Kind of Orthodontic Treatment is Right for Me?

Unfortunately, many dentists endorse these mail-order orthodontic systems. Not at The Brace Place. Our orthodontic specialists only provide scientifically backed and clinically proven orthodontic treatments like braces and Invisalign. This is part of our commitment to take care of our patients in the safest, most effective way possible.

The type of orthodontic treatment you need depends on a number of factors. Just like there’s no quick fix, there’s also no one-size-fits-all treatment. The kind of treatment you choose will depend on:

  • The severity of your case: No two mouths are the same and some people need more intervention than others to achieve their dream smile. For significant bite issues, braces will be your best bet. For minimal crowding in only the front teeth, mail-order orthodontic treatments could work — but you should always speak to an orthodontist before starting any treatment.
  • The health of your teeth and gums: Undergoing any orthodontic treatment puts a lot of strain on your gums and teeth. In order to shift your teeth effectively, your mouth needs to be healthy first. You can do this safely under the supervision and guidance of a trained orthodontic specialist. If you insist on using an at-home system, make sure to get a clean bill of health from a dentist or orthodontist first. Otherwise, you risk damaging your teeth and gums.
  • Your lifestyle: Some people don’t mind having fixed hardware in their mouths for the duration of treatment. Others would prefer a device they can remove while eating or playing sports. The treatment you choose will depend on your personal preferences and lifestyle choices. Talk to your orthodontist and they’ll be able to put you on the right path to your dream smile.

We understand that our patients want to see their new smiles as quickly as possible. But we urge you not to choose a mail-order orthodontic system over professional treatment with a highly trained orthodontic specialist. It’s not worth it. If you’re still having doubts about the safety or concerns with at-home treatments, call The Brace Place to talk to an expert today.