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Difference Between Dentist & Orthodontist

Dentists and orthodontists are similar in that they both work on teeth. Learn about the differences between these two oral care careers and look at some financial information about them.

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Comparing Dentists to Orthodontists

Dentists and orthodontists both are concerned with a patient's oral health. Dentists look after the general oral issues of individuals, while orthodontists mainly deal with fixing unaligned teeth. Below we compare these two positions along with some important information on both.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Dentist Professional or Doctoral Degree $159,770 18%
Orthodontist Professional or Doctoral Degree $208,000+ 18%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Dentists vs Orthodontists

Dentists and orthodontists both work on teeth. More exactly, they provide oral health care. Dentists look after the overall mouth from sore gums to cavities in teeth. They offer major cleaning work and determine if teeth are growing irregularly. Orthodontists are specialized oral experts who mainly straighten crooked teeth for medical and cosmetic reasons. These experts commonly work with patients in their youth, since the process normally takes quite a bit of time to accomplish.

Dentist

The first responsibility of a dentist is to act as a diagnostician and discover what is going on inside a person's mouth, from gums to teeth to roots. They utilize the latest in imaging to get a good look at someone's mouth to check for any problems. Dentists use dental tools to probe and prod areas to check severity and depth of any decay. They take care of the issues according to what the patient needs or can afford.

Job responsibilities of a dentist include:

  • Promoting oral care and health
  • Interpreting x-rays and other oral exams
  • Removing plaque and tarter and filling cavities in teeth after the removal of decay
  • Administering anesthetics to numb places around the affected area inside the mouth
  • Pulling teeth if repair is not an option

Orthodontist

Orthodontists are those oral professionals who have many youngsters as patients. These are the men and women who diagnose abnormally growing teeth and have the expertise to fix what is going wrong. Orthodontists use the latest techniques in braces to help straighten teeth that are growing in crookedly or have grown in unaligned. In many cases this is done not only for cosmetic reasons, but to help create a proper bite and realign teeth to prevent malocclusions that will affect the jawbone.

Job responsibilities of an orthodontist include:

  • Diagnosing jaw and other dental-facial problems with the help of all tests and images
  • Utilizing their knowledge to determine problems and present solutions
  • Fitting appliances to slowly alter teeth alignments
  • Educating patients on proper tooth care and cleaning of braces
  • Monitoring patients' braces and making adjustments over time

Related Careers

Those who are interested in the health of others, like dentists, may also find a match in becoming a veterinarian to help pets and other animals. Orthodontists often diagnose and monitor the straightening of teeth, and individuals who are tempted by that career might also find interest in becoming surgeons, who diagnose medical issues and use their surgical expertise to resolve problems and then monitor post-surgical care.

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