What does an orthodontist do?

You have finally decided to get the smile of your dreams, but who should you trust to carry out this treatment and give you the ideal result? We can help you to understand the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist to ensure you’re making the best decisions for your smile.

Whether you’re wondering, “What is an orthodontist?” or simply want to know more about the treatment options available to you, then read on to find out more about orthodontics.

What is an orthodontist?

Orthodontists are dental specialists who are trained in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. They provide a wide range of treatment options to straighten crooked teeth, fix bad bites and align the jaws correctly.

After completing a five-year degree in dentistry, an orthodontist undergoes a further 5,000 hours (or three years of full-time study) of specialist training in the field of orthodontics. Whether you or your child are being treated with braces or clear aligners such as Invisalign®, you need to be sure you’re being treated by an orthodontist to get the best results.

While orthodontists are primarily known for straightening teeth, they can also assist with painful and misaligned bites, tooth movement caused by bad habits such as thumb sucking, and even some forms of sleep apnoea. If you’re wondering what an orthodontist can do for your smile, you should make an appointment to have an assessment – no referral necessary.

What is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

Orthodontists and dentists share many similarities – they work together to help you improve your overall oral health – but they actually work in very different ways. Dentists cover a broad range of oral health issues. An orthodontist, on the other hand, is a dental specialist with a singular focus: straightening teeth and aligning jaws.

In order for patients to make informed decisions regarding their treatment, it’s important to be aware of a few key differences between orthodontists and dentists:

Dentists

  • A general dentist is similar to your family GP medical doctor – they are highly skilled general practitioners who can diagnose and treat problems and common diseases that affect your teeth, mouth and gums.
  • Dentists complete a General Dental Degree.
  • They are experts in general dental care and maintenance for all ages. They also perform cosmetic dental procedures such as tooth whitening, porcelain veneers and crowns.
  • Unlike orthodontists, dentists are not trained at university in fitting braces or overseeing other orthodontic treatments
  • Most general dentists will refer patients and their own family requiring orthodontic care to specialist orthodontists.

Orthodontists

  • Orthodontists are registered dental specialists who have completed an additional three years of full-time university training in orthodontics, facial growth, and development, biology and biomechanics (they hold a General Dental Degree + Specialist Orthodontic Degree). There are only 3-4 Orthodontists trained each year at 5 accredited Australian universities and only the best dentists are selected into these training programs.
  • Orthodontists are facial growth and dental development experts. They diagnose and treat crooked teeth, bad bites and poorly aligned jaws.
  • Orthodontists are experts in all orthodontic care options and technologies for children, teens and adults.

difference_between dentist and ortho

What orthodontic treatment options are available?

Using their knowledge and expertise in facial irregularities and tooth movements, an orthodontist can help you to understand which of the available treatment options will be best for you or your child.

Between fixed and removable plates, metal braces, ceramic braces, lingual (invisible) braces, and clear aligners, there are treatments to suit every need and lifestyle. It is best to make an appointment with your orthodontist prior to deciding on the treatment option you would like because every case is different and may require a particular orthodontic care option.

How do I know when I need to see an orthodontist?

You should have an orthodontic home by the age of 7. When it comes to orthodontic treatment including early interceptive treatment, braces and aligners, we recommend that patients see a orthodontics specialist.

Patients should continue to see their dentist for regular check-ups and cleaning throughout their orthodontic care as they play a very important role in maintaining good oral health.

Orthodontists and dentists will always work together to achieve optimal results for you and your children. Although a referral from a dentist is not required for you to be seen by an orthodontist, it can be a good idea to first see your family dentist for a check-up and to request a referral to a specialist orthodontist that they have an existing working relationship with.

Why should I visit a specialist orthodontist?

Your smile is one of your most important features and the first asset you present to the world, so you want to make sure it is in the best hands with a fully trained orthodontics specialist. If you’re self-conscious about the state of your teeth, then an orthodontic treatment plan can help restore confidence to your smile and help you live a happier, healthier life.

There are many reasons to visit an orthodontist. You might make an appointment to have your crooked teeth straightened, reduce gaps or correct misaligned teeth. An orthodontist can help with misaligned jaws or bite problems that can cause pain or clicking while chewing. Your orthodontist may also be able to help in some cases of sleep apnoea or to correct issues caused by prolonged habits such as thumb sucking as a child.

Orthodontic treatment (including braces and clear aligners) should ideally be provided by a registered specialist orthodontist.  Orthodontists have the skills and expertise to correctly diagnose orthodontic problems, assess and monitor your tooth movements and safeguard the health of your teeth.

How to find a specialist orthodontist near me

You might be thinking, ‘how do I find a specialist orthodontist near me?’ Every full member of the Australian Society of Orthodontists is a registered specialist orthodontist. As an organisation, they are committed to delivering excellence in patient care and continuing the education of members to ensure they’re always at the forefront of the latest scientific developments and techniques. When seeing a registered ASO orthodontist, you can feel confident in their specialist knowledge and expertise.

Our Find an Orthodontist tool helps you to locate your nearest practitioner, safe in the knowledge that they are qualified to the highest standards.

Look for the logo!

Most members of the Australian Society of Orthodontists display a sticker or sign in their window which shows they are a member of the ASO and therefore a registered orthodontics specialist. Keep an eye out for the light blue logo in the window of your orthodontist’s practice.

Difference between a dentist and orthodontist

Search AHPRA for your specialist orthodontist

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency website has the details of all registered health professionals in the country, including general dentists and dental specialists such as orthodontists. You can easily search their records to find out your practitioner’s credentials. Look for the registration type ‘Dentist – Specialist’ to confirm they are an orthodontist.

Difference between a dentist and orthodontist 1

If in doubt, ask!

It’s always best to check whether or not your orthodontist is a registered specialist with an independent organisation. However, as a final option, the receptionist at your orthodontist’s practice may be able to help if you’re still not sure.

What does an orthodontist do?

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Comments

Jinnentonix says:

Is there a distinction between paediatric and adult orthodontics? Or can we assume that all orthodontists have sufficient expertise in both paediatric and adult practice?

Thanks for any clarification.

Orthodontics Australia says:

Orthodontists are trained to treat patients of all ages, from kids and teens right through to adults, and as such there is no distinction within the profession. Any registered specialist orthodontist you make an appointment with will have the training, knowledge and experience to administer effective orthodontic treatment - regardless of the patient's age.
Click here to find a registered orthodontist near you.

Ross Ramsay says:

My teeth are moving around, now that I have lost a few. Can this be fixed by an orthodontist ?

Orthodontics Australia says:

Hi Ross. Yes, orthodontists can help with this type of problem. You'll first need to make an appointment with an orthodontist to assess the health of your teeth and gums, and to discuss your potential treatment options. You can make an appointment with an orthodontist without a referral - simply use this tool to find a registered specialist orthodontist near you.

Jeanne says:

What do I do if I realise a general dentist is working as an orthodontist?

Orthodontics Australia says:

If you’re unhappy or have any concerns regarding the treatment you’re undergoing, you can seek a second opinion from an ASO registered orthodontist. Also, if you feel as though you have been intentionally misled about your orthodontic provider's skills, qualifications or experience, you can contact the Australian Dental Association's community relations officer for advice and support in finding a suitable outcome.

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