Difference Between Orthodontist & Periodontist

Orthodontists and periodontists are dentists who specialize in correcting problems in certain areas of the mouth. Each of these career areas are covered in some detail for your convenience in this article.

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Comparing Orthodontists to Periodontists

Orthodontists are special dentists who concern themselves with the realignment of crooked teeth. Periodontists are dentists who specialize in severe gum disease as well as dental implants. The necessary education and estimated salary for both of these dentists is compared below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Orthodontist Doctoral degree $208,000 (2016) 18%
Periodontist Doctoral degree $160,116 (2017)** 9-13% (dentist, all other specialist)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale

Responsibilities of Orthodontists vs. Periodontists

Orthodontists and periodontists both work on a person's teeth and gums. Orthodontists are alignment experts whose main task is to straighten crooked teeth for cosmetic and/or medical reasons. These professionals commonly work their magic when patients are young since the project takes anywhere from months to years to complete. Periodontists are specialists in periodontal disease. They deal with issues pertaining to gum inflammation, the roots of teeth, or patients with a complex medical history.


When orthodontists are called in, in many cases this means installing braces onto someone's teeth. These dental experts find abnormally growing teeth and use their knowledge to correct the problem. Orthodontists are in possession of the latest techniques to help straighten teeth that may be coming in crooked or have already grown in unaligned. This may be of major importance not only for cosmetic reasons but also to help prevent malocclusions that affect the jawbone since the bite alignment has been compromised.

Job responsibilities of an orthodontist include:

  • Utilizing their education to find alignment problems and present solutions
  • Using testing and imaging to find dental-facial problems
  • Monitoring dental work and braces to make adjustments with time
  • Fitting braces to alter the alignment of teeth
  • Educating people on dental care and how to keep braces clean


When gum inflammation becomes a serious problem most people will seek the aid of a periodontist, who is a dental expert trained in serious gum disease that can affect someone's overall health. Periodontal specialists deal with soft gum tissue problems caused by plaque, tartar, gingivitis, and periodontitis. Normally periodontal treatment will include deep cleaning and some medication. But in many instances, if the disease is severe enough, surgery may be required.

Job responsibilities of a periodontist include:

  • Interpreting oral exams and X-rays
  • Removing plaque, tartar and gingivitis along the gum line and between teeth
  • Administering anesthetics around affected areas
  • Pulling teeth if repair is not an option
  • Performing bone and tissue grafts if needed

Related Careers

Dental assistants, like orthodontists, are trained personnel who are interested in the oral health of others and they assist orthodontists with basic patient care or taking X-rays. A periodontist often diagnoses and monitors gum disease and spends much of their time deep cleaning gums and teeth, much like dental hygienist, whose job it is to generally clean teeth and look for problems.

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