Orthodontist or Dentist: Which One Do You Need for Braces?

A person with braces being examined by an Orthodontist or Dentist

If you’re considering getting braces, you may wonder whether to see an orthodontist or dentist. Both professionals are trained in techniques that can improve your smile, but there are some key differences to consider. This article will help you understand the factors to consider when deciding.

Understanding the Roles of Dentists and Orthodontists.

While both dentists and orthodontists care for your teeth and oral health, their roles and areas of expertise differ. Dentists focus on general oral health, including preventative care, diagnosing, and treating dental problems such as decayed teeth and gum disease, and performing routine procedures like cleanings and fillings. Orthodontists, on the other hand, specialize in correcting misaligned teeth and jaws, using braces, aligners, and other orthodontic appliances to straighten teeth and improve bite function. When deciding between a dentist and an orthodontist for braces, it’s essential to consider your specific needs and the expertise of each professional.

Why an Orthodontist is More Experienced at Straightening Teeth

There is a significant difference in the level of education of an orthodontist compared to a dentist. Dentists are general practitioners who have completed dental school and are licensed to practice a wide range of dental services. They are allowed to service patients with clear aligners but not other forms of braces.

Orthodontists complete two to three years of training in addition to dental school. So, not only are they trained as dentists, but they are also experts in diagnosing and treating orthodontic problems. Their training focuses on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of crooked teeth as well as jaw and bite misalignment.

Orthodontic Treatment for Children

Children between the ages of 4 and 11 still have actively growing jawbones. Orthodontists’ additional schooling trains them in interceptive orthodontics, also known as early orthodontic treatment or preventative treatment. Orthodontists can identify and correct potential bite problems in a child before the child fully develops to prevent more severe problems in later years.


  • Dentists complete a General Dental Degree.
  • A general dentist is similar to your family doctor and is very important for overall dental health. They provide many services, from dental cleaning to repairing teeth.
  • Most dentists will refer patients requiring orthodontic treatment to a certified orthodontic specialist.


  • Orthodontists complete a dental degree and then a two to three-year specialist degree.
  • Proper early intervention can reduce the need for orthodontic treatment and improve results. Orthodontists are specialists in facial growth and dental development.
  • Orthodontists are specialists in tooth and jaw alignment.
  • Orthodontists offer many types of treatment, including retainers, clear aligners, and traditional braces, and will help pick the right one for you. Dentists often only offer one brand or type of aligner or braces.

Evaluating Your Specific Needs for Braces.

When deciding between a dentist or orthodontist, it’s essential to consider the severity of your or your child’s dental issue. A dentist can provide cosmetic solutions such as veneers or bonding if minor crowding or spacing issues exist. However, an orthodontist is best if more complex problems exist, such as a misaligned bite or crooked teeth. Orthodontists have the specialized training and expertise to provide comprehensive orthodontic treatment to address these issues, and they can offer more treatment options.

Please watch this entertaining and informative video from the AAO about choosing between a dentist and an orthodontist for straightening your teeth.

Why McDonough Orthodontics

We are the dentist’s choice in Utah. Many dentists and dental professionals refer their patients and family to our office for orthodontic care. We have treated and continue to treat them and their families because they trust the care and result they will receive from McDonough Orthodontics.

We make it easy to schedule appointments, arrange financing options, and are right off the freeway.

Our team members are exceptionally trained, have many years of experience, and are super friendly!

And lastly, we love our patients. And our patients love us. Most of the patients we see have been referred to us by their family and friends.

Contact McDonough Orthodontics now to get our complementary evaluation from an orthodontist when considering braces or clear aligners for yourself or a child.

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