What is an Orthodontist?

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 on offer to you, then read on to find out more about orthodontics. 

What is an orthodontist?

Orthodontists are dental specialists who are University 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.

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 is 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 who focuses on issues such as straightening teeth and correcting improper bite patterns.

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


  • A general dentist is similar to your family GP medical doctor – they are 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 treatment to specialist 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 the 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 treatment 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 treatment option.

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

You should have a 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 specialist orthodontist.

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

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 is always a good idea to first see your family dentist for a check-up and then request a referral to a specialist orthodontist that they have a good working relationship with.


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.

Ross Ramsay says:

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

Jeanne says:

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

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