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Dentist or Orthodontist – Which of the Two Do You Really Need?

Most people often mistake dentists for orthodontists and sometimes, it’s the other way around. And, while it’s true that both professionals work in the same field, their specialization and expertise set them widely apart from each other.

If you’ve ever wondered which of the two specialists you’ll need to do so to have your dental problems fixed, then be sure to read on below.

Educational Backgrounds

Both professionals have very similar educational backgrounds. Both have to get a bachelor’s degree first, apply for dental school and complete a four-year doctoral program once accepted.

The difference, though, is that to become an orthodontist, a dentist must serve a two or three-year residency in orthodontists first. Then, the orthodontist must have to be board-certified first and by then, the orthodontist will have his name tagged with D.D.S or D.M.D and an additional “M.S”.

To vaguely simplify terms, dentists usually have a D.D.S (doctor of dental surgery) or D.M.D (doctor of dental medicine) in their names, but orthodontists may have either one of the two, as well as an M.S, which stands for Master of Science.

So, which of the two do you need?

Now that you know their extensive educational backgrounds and how orthodontists are more specialized because of their higher education, the question is, which of the two do you need for your dental issue?

Well, for minor issues, a dentist will be more than enough. Dentists can and will diagnose, as well as treat and manage your overall oral health. They’re the professionals who perform dental checkups, professional cleaning and also, X-rays. But, dentists can also provide other services, such as the repair or removal of problem teeth, filling of cavities and making models for dentures.

The other treatments offered by dentists include: Gum care, root canals, crowns, veneers, bridges and even teeth whitening.

Dentists may also offer orthodontic services if he or she has completed additional coursework, but more of than not, they will refer you to another specialist.

Now, should your teeth need realignment, the dentist will refer you to an orthodontist.

Orthodontists specialize in the use of non-surgical procedures to correct the alignment of your teeth and jaws. They can diagnose, prevent and treat various problems, such as overbites, underbites, gaps and overcrowded teeth.

After a thorough check of your teeth, an orthodontist will be able to determine which treatment is best and safest ways to straighten your teeth.

What now?

As a general rule of thumb, always go to the dentist first. While most people have problems with their bite, it’s not always as severe so as to require the intervention of an orthodontist.

As always, go to your dentist for regular preventive dental examinations and regular cleaning to help reduce the chances of you developing any form of dental issue. And, of course, whenever you feel like there’s something wrong with your teeth, don’t wait for your next 6-month checkup and schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as you can so that it can be taken care of immediately – by them, or by orthodontists or by other dental specialists.

For questions about orthodontics or to make an appointment call Creative Dimensions in Dentistry in San Leandro at 510-895-1776. Visit the website to learn more at

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