Orthodontist Vs. Doctor: Salary & Job Description

Although orthodontists and doctors are both healthcare professionals with extensive training, they focus on treating different types of issues. Continue reading to learn more about these occupations.

Comparing Orthodontists to Doctors

Orthodontists and doctors both must complete comparable postsecondary training requirements, but orthodontists are dentists who specialize in straightening teeth while doctors treat illnesses and injuries. Medical doctors may work as general practitioners or specialists. Some treat patients who come to the emergency room after an accident while others treat patients in clinics or maintain a practice where they provide healthcare services to patients on an ongoing basis.

Job Title Educational Requirements Average Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Orthodontists Doctoral degree, residency $228,780 19%
Doctors Doctoral degree, residency $200,810 (family and general practitioners) 14% (family and general practitioners)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Orthodontists vs. Doctors

As medical professionals, orthodontists and doctors both perform some similar general duties. They talk to patients about their condition, evaluate test results and assess their patients. They both explain diagnoses and discuss treatment options with their patients. Orthodontists provide treatment for patients with teeth alignment issues and install braces or create other appliances that can help correct alignment issues. Doctors may provide some general medical care, such as setting broken bones or providing patients with prescriptions. While orthodontists have a specific dental care focus, doctors are qualified to treat patients with a wide range of illnesses and injuries.


Orthodontists are licensed dentists who've completed additional training so that they can concentrate on fixing teeth or jaws that aren't correctly aligned. They typically work indoors in a dental office, although some may also work in doctors' offices or clinics. An orthodontist's hours can extend into the evening, and some may also work weekends. They need good problem-solving skills to determine the best way to straighten a person's teeth. They also need good fine motor skills because they spend a lot of time working with their hands in a confined area.

Job responsibilities of an orthodontist include:

  • Examining patients
  • Reviewing x-rays
  • Diagnosing issues such as malocclusions
  • Updating patient records
  • Choosing treatment options
  • Producing retainers and other dental appliances


Doctors are qualified to provide medical care to people. Although they are required to have extensive training to become a licensed medical doctor, those who complete additional residency and fellowship requirements can opt to specialize. Doctors who specialize treat specific parts of the body or specific medical conditions or perform specific medical procedures. Doctors can work in a variety of environments, including hospitals, clinics and medical offices. It is normal for doctors to be on call at times, and evening and weekend work is common for those who work in clinics; doctors who work in hospitals may work at any time of the day or night. They need good communication skills to effectively interact with patients, and they also need problem-solving skills to diagnose patients correctly.

Job responsibilities of a doctor include:

  • Performing patient examinations
  • Reviewing a patient's medical history
  • Sending patients for medical tests
  • Referring patients to specialists
  • Educating patients about their medical condition
  • Determining how to treat patients

Related Careers

Becoming a periodontist may also be an option for those thinking about a future as an orthodontist because periodontists are also dental specialists and need comparable training. A career as an audiologist may also interest those considering a future as a doctor because audiologists also diagnose and treat patients.

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