Comparing Optometrists to Dentists
Optometrists and dentists are practicing healthcare professionals specializing in eye and mouth health. Their degrees and career outlooks are mirror images, but their salaries and overall responsibilities are not. Find out more about their similarities and differences below.
|Job Title||Educational Requirements||Median Salary (2016)*||Job Growth (2016-2026)*|
|Optometrists||Doctoral or professional degree||$106,140||17%|
|Dentists||Doctoral or professional degree||$159,770||17%|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Responsibilities of Optometrists vs. Dentists
Optometrists focus on improving someone's vision or diagnosing patients with ocular diseases. Dentists, however, focus on cleaning and fixing a patient's teeth and checking for gum disease. Optometrists and dentists see patients on a regular basis, and they may practice in their own offices not attached to a hospital. Interestingly, the gamut of tests they both complete on a patient may catch other illnesses not directly related to the eyes or mouth, including high blood pressure and diabetes.
To decide if a patient needs corrective lenses, optometrists use their knowledge of ocular physiology to provide vision tests. Before officially filing a new prescription, the eye doctor should consult the patient's records to determine any previous prescriptions, as this allows them to track a patient's ocular degeneration. They may also measure a person's face and parts of their eyes to fit glasses and contacts. If a person is suffering from a lazy eye, the eye doctor can offer exercises and vision therapy to correct this. Additionally, these professionals can perform topography tests to catch damage to or diseases of the cornea.
Job responsibilities of an optometrist include:
- Analyzing the results of visual acuity and focus tests
- Prescribing eye drops for corneal diseases or infections
- Testing a patient for glaucoma and astigmatisms
- Providing care for a patient before and after they undergo laser surgery
Dentists supervise dental hygienists as they update patient files and take routine x-rays. Dentists then interpret the x-rays to diagnose any teeth and gum issues. Before completing a procedure, these professionals administer shots of anesthetic to keep the procedure as painless as possible. This allows them to fill cavities, apply caps or crowns to cracked teeth, and even remove unhealthy teeth that cannot be fixed. To replace missing teeth, dentists make models for dentures. They also promote oral health by teaching patients how to use brushes and floss, as well as making good dietary choices, such as avoiding excessive acid.
Job responsibilities of a dentist include:
- Following the development of children's teeth and jaws
- Whitening a patient's teeth in a safe and professional manner
- Prescribing antibiotics for abscesses and infections in the mouth
- Diagnosing and treating issues with nerves in the gums
Optometrists and ophthalmologists both assist people with their vision, so if you're interested in becoming an optometrist, you may want to also consider this alternative. Additionally, dentists and orthodontists both help keep people's teeth healthy, so it may be beneficial to explore both these options as well.