What is an Orthodontist?

Isn’t orthodontist just a fancy word for dentist? Many people use the words dentist and orthodontist interchangeably. In reality, an orthodontist practices a very specific and different profession. Orthodontists are not necessary for everyone, but rather they are a dental specialist that treats specific types of dental problems. Below is more information about what an orthodontist is, what treatments they provide, and what you should expect from an appointment to see the orthodontist.

When is an Orthodontist needed?

While a general dentist focuses on overall oral health, including the health of the mouth, jaw, teeth, gums, and nerves, an orthodontist is a dentist that specializes in the alignment and spacing of the teeth. A dentist may refer you to an orthodontist if they identify that you have an overbite, occlusion, misaligned teeth and jaws, or a mouth that is overcrowded. Once identified, all of these problems need to be appropriately diagnosed and treated by an orthodontist. If left untreated, these issues with alignment and spacing will grow worse overtime and cause more severe problems.

What does an Orthodontist do?

Once you have been referred to an orthodontist by your dentist, they will develop a treatment plan to fix your dental issues. Once a dental issue has been identified, there are many different treatment approaches that may be used to treat your issue. For example, if your issue is misaligned or crooked teeth, your orthodontist will likely recommend braces. If the issue is a large gap in between teeth, pulling the teeth closer together will be the solution. If the issue is overcrowding, your orthodontist may need to extract teeth to fix spacing. Braces are the most common treatment solution used by orthodontist and many American adolescents have braces at one point or another.

Do orthodontists need additional training?

Similar to all dental specialists, orthodontists are required to receive additional training during or after dental school. First, an orthodontist must complete regular dental education requirements. In general, dental school requires four years of classes. To be a licensed orthodontist, an individual must complete additional training and coursework in the orthodontist specialty. These two to three years of additional training are required before a student can be a certified as an orthodontist. What this means is that an orthodontist is a dentist with essentially double the training.

What to expect from an appointment to see the Orthodontist?

You may be a bit scared for your first visit to the orthodontist. But rest assured, an appointment to see an orthodontist is not much different than an appointment to see a general dentist. You start by showing up for your appointment at the scheduled time. Once your name is called you will head to your exam room. Since you will have likely been referred to see the orthodontist by your dentist, they will start by assuming you have a spacing or alignment problem. The first step of the visit is a general exam of your mouth. Whatever the issue identified by your dentist, the orthodontist will examine your mouth, diagnose the issue, and then develop a treatment plan.

The treatment plan of an orthodontist

For many dental issues that need orthodontic treatment, you should expect to make several return visits for the full treatment process. A good example of a typical treatment plan is the application of braces:

  • First appointment: The orthodontist will diagnosis the issues with alignment through a course of exams and x-rays.
  • Second appointment: The orthodontist will install the braces.
  • Third, fourth, and fifth visits: After having braces installed you will need to visit the orthodontist regularly to make sure the braces are working, and they do not need to be tightened or adjusted. The number of follow-up visits will depend on the severity of the issue.
  • Final appointment: Your braces will be removed.

In general, the braces treatment usually takes between one and three years in its entirety. Not all orthodontist treatments will take this long to fix dental issues, but more than one visit should be expected.

Do I need an Orthodontist?

If you would like your teeth to be straighter, you suspect you have issues with alignment, or you have gaps between your teeth that concern you, you should start by scheduling a visit to your general dentist. Your dentist will help determine if your issues can be treated with a simple dental treatment, or if you need to see an orthodontist. Your dentist will know what is best for you and will refer you to a specialist if your dental issue requires it.

More on Orthodontics : How Does Orthodontics Work?