Dentists work on a wide variety of oral health problems, while orthodontists are specialists who focus on the alignment of the teeth and jaws, using non-surgical solutions to correct the wrong position. After finishing dental school and taking the certification exam, orthodontists attend an orthodontic residency program for an additional 2 or 3 years to obtain a specialty certification in orthodontics. If you've been given an orthodontic appliance and you need to repair it, your orthodontist can help. And if you ever need treatment for crooked teeth or a problem that affects your bite, your dentist will refer you to an orthodontist.
So if you need dental treatment, should you call an orthodontist or dentist? If you have a toothache or suspect that you might have developed a cavity, see your general dentist for a diagnosis. It's common for people to use “dentist” and “orthodontist” interchangeably, but they're very different specialties. To practice as an orthodontist, most dental schools require 2 to 3 additional training courses after earning a general dentistry degree. If you wear braces to straighten your teeth or correct another dental problem, your orthodontist may place molar bands on your back teeth.
Orthodontists use tools such as braces, retainers, and harnesses to move teeth to better positions and retrain muscles. Orthodontists have many tools at their disposal that help them align their teeth and jaws correctly, including traditional braces, lingual braces, and transparent aligners, among other orthodontic appliances. Orthodontists must receive additional educational certification before they begin practicing. Because alignment problems are unique to each patient, orthodontists use x-rays and photographs of the teeth to create individualized treatment plans, the AAO notes.
News %26 World Report and demand for orthodontist jobs is expected to grow by more than 8% in the coming years. The specific problems that orthodontists treat include underbites, overbites, large spaces between teeth, and crowding, which occurs when teeth are grouped too close together. Both dentists and orthodontists first earn a bachelor's degree from a four-year university and then apply to dental school, taking the Dental Admission Exam (DAT) as part of the application process in most programs.
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