General Dentist vs. Orthodontist

Who do you choose for your orthodontic care...the General Dentist or Orthodontist?

We have come to realize that most people do not understand the difference between and an Orthodontist and a general dentist.  The difference is ……education and experience.

Many general dentists attempt to do orthodontic treatment with Braces or Invisalign after taking a few weekend or night courses. The problem is that they do not have the education, experience and knowledge required to diagnose and plan treatment correctly.  Understanding and avoiding possible complications and offering the best treatment options is so important.

How do you know the difference between them?

That is easier than you might think. All dentists start by graduating from dental school.  This allows them to practice general dentistry.  However, only the most exceptional doctors are allowed to specialize.  An Orthodontist is a specialist in orthodontics.  The specialty training programs are highly competitive and only the best are selected.  For example, recently over 250 doctors applied to UCLA and 4 were approved to enter residency training. These residencies last 2-3 years and are just like the residencies in medicine which produce cardiologists, dermatologists, etc.

One way to tell an orthodontist from a general dentist is in their signage.  You will note that a general dentist offering orthodontic services to their patients always uses the signage which says “Orthodontics”.  It never says “Orthodontist”.  To do so would be deceptive to the consumer because they do not have the additional training needed to be a specialist. The State of California protects the consumer and does not allow general dentists to do so. Only an Orthodontic Specialist may use the term “Orthodontist” to describe himself. 

Why  does it matter?

It is a fact that medical and dental specialists have superior experience, training and knowledge in their fields of expertise. (e.g. cardiologists, oncologists, orthodontists, etc.)  People trust specialists in medicine because of this superior expertise, especially when there is a life and death situation at hand.

Not only do we rely on the specialist to expertly diagnose the nuances of our condition and deliver the best care, we also we want them to understand the risks, to avoid the problems and to see things that the general physician would miss due to lack of experience.  The same is true in dentistry. 

The orthodontic specialist is far more likely to successfully correct an orthodontic issue than the general dentist because the specialist has accumulated vast knowledge and experience by practice orthodontics and only orthodontics everyday while the general dentist has minimal experience in moving teeth correctly and safely. Indeed his predominant role as a dental professional is to clean teeth, remove caries and place fillings, and replace missing teeth.