On a daily basis, we often hear the question: what is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist? Indeed, both professions focus on oral health, but there are significant differences between them. 

What is dentistry?

To fully understand the difference between the two professional occupations, we must first learn about dentistry.

Dentistry is a branch of medicine dedicated to the care of teeth and the tissues that support them. Dentistry is the starting point in the world of general dental health. Similar to other fields of medicine, specializations are developed to refine the medical treatment of certain types of problems or conditions, and the same applies to teeth.

Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry. You can be sure that just as a heart surgeon is a doctor. An orthodontist is initially a dentist who later on specializes in a branch of dentistry.

What does an orthodontist do versus a dentist?

Orthodontics is a specialty of oral health. They treat the dentofacial structures, the internal components of the teeth, such as the nerves and blood vessels. In summary, this specialist focuses on the position of the teeth and the jaws. 

The role of the orthodontist is to diagnose, prevent and treat problems related to the tooth structure. As well as diseases that can damage tissues such as the gums and periodontal ligaments. 

Although a general dentist can perform most oral health care and treatment. The orthodontist, a highly trained specialist, will be required if special treatments or a thorough analysis of the patient's condition are needed to resolve any oral health problems.  

The majority of the time, a dentist will refer you to an orthodontist. He will proceed with the treatment plan, evaluation of treatment options as well as recommendations. Adjustments and installation of orthodontic appliances such as braces or he may also use Invisalign treatment for straightening his teeth.

 In addition, he may remove teeth that are problematic to a patient's dental health. Perform root canals, and advise on treatments for gum disease and other tissues related to the teeth.

These dental specialty services can be required for all age groups. Since an orthodontist has knowledge related to the development of the teeth and jaw from early childhood to senior age.

Who can become an orthodontist?

A general dentist who wishes to become an orthodontist must first obtain a doctorate in dental medicine. This is achieved after 4 to 5 years of study in dental school.

Afterward, a future orthodontist will have to complete substantial additional dental training. They must successfully complete an orthodontic residency program, which may vary from 2 to 3 years of full-time study. 

This residency program must be validated by the “Ordre des dentistes du Québec” and the Royal College of Dentists of Canada. This guarantees that the additional training and follow-ups made with future orthodontists are closely supervised. Accordingly, are subject to high standards of excellence and high professionalism.

Successful completion of university training leading to a certificate or master's degree in orthodontics is also necessary. These certifications must also be recognized by the same authorities and professional orders. 

Therefore, it takes all this knowledge, education, and experience for a dentist to obtain the official title of orthodontist. They can become a sort of family doctor, dedicated to oral health, specializing in orthodontic treatment.