“What is an orthodontist?” “What’s the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?”
These are pretty common questions. Sure, most people know that orthodontists put braces on their patients. But not as many people know what education and training they go through, or what exactly makes them different from dentists.
So, we thought we’d take just a few minutes to clear things up, and you can finally stop wondering, “What is an orthodontist, exactly?” And you can also overexplain it to your kids when they ask you the same question.
What Is an Orthodontist?
Simply put, an orthodontist is a dentist who’s further trained to diagnose, prevent, and treat irregularities of the teeth and jaws. They use appliances like braces, lingual braces, clear aligners, and more to fix a wide range of bite problems, otherwise known as malocclusions. And they do so for children, teens, and adults.
Orthodontic Education and Training
If you were paying attention in the previous section, you may have caught a significant detail: Every orthodontist is trained as a dentist.
First, they complete their undergraduate college studies, then they complete dental school. But, while a dentist stops there, an orthodontist then completes a two to three-year accredited orthodontic residency program. Orthodontics is a medical specialty. It’s just like how a surgeon has to go through a surgical residency after completing medical school.
The orthodontic residency focuses on two disciplines:
- Orthodontics – How to properly and safely reposition teeth
- Dentofacial Orthopedics – How how to properly guide development in the teeth, jaw, and face
After completion of the residency, orthodontists have the option of becoming board certified. However, this is voluntarily—not mandatory—in the US.
Just for the record, there is some orthodontics instruction in dental school. But it’s quite minimal, and not nearly adequate to practice in the specialty.
Identifying a Legitimate Orthodontist
When you’re looking for an orthodontist, be sure to choose one who’s a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). That’s a guarantee they’ve completed all the necessary education and training to safely and effectively align you or your child’s teeth and jaws.
Again, just for the record, Dr. Ogden is a member of the AAO.