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What is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

November 5th, 2021

Arkansas Braces being examined by an orthodontist

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends visiting your dentist at least twice a year, but when do you need to see an orthodontist?

There can be much confusion surrounding the difference between these dental professionals. After all, they both diagnose and treat a variety of oral health concerns. There are, however, some fundamental differences that will ultimately affect your need to see one or the other.

Education and Training

Both dental professionals initially receive much of the same education early in their professions. According to the ADA, they both complete four years of undergraduate education and four years of dental school. After completing dental school, graduates must pass the written National Board Dental Examination and meet state requirements for clinical examinations.

Orthodontists, however, must complete an additional 2-3 years of post-graduate residency. They also have to take additional examinations in this specialization.

What Do Dentists Do?

According to the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), about 80 % of dentists practice general dentistry. Your general dentist will diagnose and treat oral health conditions of the teeth, gums, tongue, and mouth by:

  • Conducting dental X-ray
  • Filling dental cavities
  • Repairing cracked teeth
  • Filling and bonding the teeth
  • Treating gum disease
  • Prescribing oral health drug
  • Performing teeth whitening treatments
  • Improving the function and appearance of teeth with crowns or veneers
  • Monitoring oral health of children

As you can see, a general dentist is capable of diagnosing and treating most oral health concerns. If you require specialized treatment, your general dentist may refer you to a specialist.

What Do Orthodontists Do?

According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), approximately 6% of dentists specialize in orthodontics. Certified orthodontists can also diagnose and treat oral health conditions of your teeth, gums, and mouth, but they also specialize in issues of tooth and jaw alignment such as:

  • Misaligned teeth and jaws (malocclusion)
  • Tooth crowding
  • Palate expansion
  • Gaps between teeth
  • Pediatric jaw and tooth development

An orthodontic dentist will assess your oral health with X-rays and photographs and then create an individualized treatment plan that may contain options such as:

  • Traditional braces
  • Lingual braces
  • Clear aligners, such as Invisalign.
  • Palatal expanders
  • Orthodontic headgear


Imagine being sure that your ordinary dental insurance will cover your Invisalign treatment only to find that your dental insurance declined coverage. That’s not a pleasant surprise! Why didn't your dental insurance cover your orthodontic visit?

For insurance purposes, orthodontic dentists are technically considered specialists. Therefore, orthodontic care may not be covered, even if you have dental insurance.

While many dental plans include some coverage for orthodontics, they may refuse to cover the costs if your general dentist did not refer you to a specialist. Even if you have good dental coverage, you may have to pay certain out-of-pocket co-pays for orthodontic treatments.

The best way to avoid confusion or surprise bills is to clarify your coverage details with the insurance company. If you are shopping for coverage, insurance companies will be happy to go over coverage details before you decide to purchase a plan.

If you have no insurance, many orthodontic and dental offices will work with you to help you get the care that you need. Aside from insurance, many dental offices accept credit cards, cash, and in some cases, payment plans.

Which is Best?

Your dentist is more of a general practitioner, while an orthodontist is a specialist. You typically see your general dentist for life, but you might only need to receive orthodontic treatment for specific issues.

Most of your dental needs can be taken care of by your general dentist, but if you have issues such as crowding, palate expansion, and malocclusion, you might need orthodontic treatment. Furthermore, the AAO recommends that children see an orthodontist before their seventh birthday.

In some states, general dentists can also provide some orthodontic treatments, such as braces. You may see these dentists advertising some orthodontic treatments, like braces, but only certified orthodontists who have completed that required education and training can refer to themselves as such.

Key Takeaway

The most important thing to remember is that good dental health is a part of your overall physical wellbeing, so you should visit your general dentist regularly.

If you have alignment issues, it is equally important to get qualified orthodontic treatment. Whether you need traditional braces or Invisalign, Vondran Orthodontics in Little Rock AR is here to assess and treat your orthodontic concerns! Contact Vondran Orthodontics today for all of your orthodontic needs.


Does My Child Really Need Braces?

October 19th, 2021

Beautiful young woman with teeth braces

Correcting a crooked smile is the most common reason children get braces, but it's far from the only one. A lot of parents wonder whether their children might need them. However, they don't always know what to look for. Understanding the most common reasons why children need an orthodontic procedure should help. So, here are a few reasons why we'd recommend considering them.

Most Common Signs That Your Children Need Braces

Most of the time, parents wait until their children develop some sort of health issue. Health issues aren't the only reason you should consider orthodontics, though. Poorly shaped smiles can affect children's confidence. And, it can even make it difficult for them to speak. Speak to your orthodontist if you've seen any of the following issues.

Oral Health Issues

Nearly 75% of all people wind up needing some type of orthodontic treatment. Usually, they'll wait until they've got an oral health issue. These can be easier to see than other issues. So, if you see any of the following, it might be time to visit your orthodontist.

Misaligned Bites:

Ideally, when your close your mouth, your teeth touch lightly. Sometimes, the bottom teeth sit in front of the top teeth. That's called an underbite. Whenever the top teeth sit in front, that's called an overbite. Misaligned bites can cause further health issues.

Crowded Teeth:

Each tooth should sit close to its neighbors, but not too close. Otherwise, crowding makes it difficult to clean them. Thus, promoting the development of gum diseases.

Gapped Teeth:

Gapped teeth aren't always seen as a health issue. However, they can promote plaque and other bacteria too. If your children have too much space between their teeth, speak to their orthodontist.

Crooked Teeth:

Even crooked teeth could be a cause for concern. When your teeth don't sit straight, it's much more difficult to brush them effectively.


Confidence Problems

Has your child seemed like they've felt a little shy lately? That shyness could be the result of them feeling uncomfortable with their smile. Corrective procedures, such as Invisalign, could help to solve the problem. A nice smile might do wonders for their self-esteem.

Speech Difficulties

Believe it or not, some speech difficulties are the result of bad teeth placement. If your teeth don't line up well, they could clash whenever you're talking. Has your child had difficulties with their speech? In that case, it might be worth speaking to your orthodontist. Orthodontics could help them learn how to speak without any problems.

When Should Your Child Get Them?

Sometimes, parents don't get help as soon as they should. Most of the time, that's because they don't know when to ask for help. We'd suggest waiting until your children have gotten most of their adult teeth. When does that happen, though?

Between the Ages of 8-14, Children Should Get All of Their Adult Teeth:
Children can start losing their baby teeth as young as 3 or 4 years old. However, in most cases, they won't get all of them until they are teenagers. In some instances, children as young as 8 years old can have all of their adult teeth. Either way, waiting until they've gotten most of them is a good idea. Some orthodontic issues correct themselves whenever the adult teeth finish growing.

Why Your Child Might Need Braces

Some behaviors increase the odds that your children will need braces. Keep an eye out for the following behaviors. They might make visiting the orthodontist necessary.

Breathing Through the Mouth:
Breathing through the mouth when you're young can cause your jaw to develop an underbite.

Thumb Sucking:
Sucking on your thumb during childhood can push your teeth back. Ultimately, one row of teeth might protrude in front of the others.

Poor Nutrition:
Adequate nutrition is essential for the proper development of your teeth. Without enough calcium, they won't have all the necessary building materials. Other deficiencies can also contribute to orthodontic issues.

Poor Oral Hygiene:
Finally, you need to teach your children proper oral hygiene from a young age. The longer they've had good oral health, the less likely they'll need orthodontics.

Other Signs That Your Child Might Need Them

Are you still unsure whether your child should see an orthodontist? Don't worry. A lot of parents express uncertainty when it comes to these procedures. Have they shown any of the following symptoms? If so, it might be better to go ahead and bite the bullet.

Mouth or Jaw Pain:
Above all, if your child experiences jaw pain, they need to see a medical professional. Most of the time, this is due to a misaligned jaw. Leaving that alone could cause them to damage their teeth. Misalignment makes it easy to crush teeth together. Correcting those misalignments could prevent further issues from developing.

On both sides of the mouth, your child's teeth should line up evenly. Otherwise, they've got a crossbite. These may cause their teeth to wear unevenly.

Open Bites:
Does your child have a gap between their upper and lower teeth whenever they close their mouth? If so, that's an open bite. Open bites are common in children who suck their thumbs for a long time. These bites can make it difficult for them to chew their food properly.

Protruding Teeth:
Overjets occur whenever some of the teeth protrude in front of the others. Since they'll be hit first during a fall, this puts them at increased risk of being knocked out

Difficulty Chewing:
Chewing should always be an easy task for your children. Problems with teeth alignment could make it a lot more complicated, though. If your children struggle with chewing, it's time to see an orthodontist.

Vondran Orthodontics: The Top Orthodontist in Little Rock AR

If you think your children might need braces, give us a call. Vondran Orthodontics specializes in treating children and adults. We've helped tons of patients over the years, and we'd love to help you.