What Is an Orthodontist?

Are Dentists and Orthodontists the same? Dentists and orthodontists are trained physicians that are in related fields but serve very different purposes. Dentists take care of the general health of the teeth, gums, and mouth. Orthodontists are dentists that go further and receive special training in the alignment, positioning, and placement of teeth and jaws and if necessary, can correct any serious issues with any of those problems. 

dentist orthodontist looking at something



How do I know if I need to see an orthodontist?

Generally, the dentist will refer a patient to the orthodontist and then throughout the treatment plan, the two will work closely together. If the dentist notices problems with the positioning and placement of the teeth that could cause potential health problems, he will make the recommendation that orthodontic treatment is in order.

What are the duties of an orthodontist? The field of orthodontia is a field of dentistry that specializes in diagnosing and treating teeth that are not positioned correctly or are out of alignment. Orthodontists also treat problems with the positioning of the jaws. Orthodontists receive a great deal of specialized training beyond dentistry in order to prevent and treat these issues. A good analogy is a general doctor who goes beyond and receives additional training to become a specialist.

Dentists will generally refer patients to an orthodontist who will then diagnose such issues as overbites, overcrowding teeth or occlusions. Gaps in the teeth, called diastemas, are also a common problem that orthodontists can easily amend. These problems do not ever self-correct and most of the time will continue to worsen over time. An orthodontist is able to carefully design a treatment plan for these problems.

Orthodontists use a variety of tools and treatment plans to correct misaligned and misplaced teeth and jaws. The most common form of treatment, the one most people are familiar with, is braces. The orthodontist can pull teeth into place over a period of time using braces which are basically bands put around each tooth and connected carefully with wires. Sometimes other methods are used called aligners which are worn and removed as needed by the patient.

Most patients will consult an orthodontist for these problems to eliminate pain or discomfort but many times, patients will consider orthodontia simply to improve appearance. A beautiful smile can certainly improve your confidence like nothing else!

There are many other forms of treatment as well, all with the goal of properly aligning and positioning teeth. Examples include palate expanders, headgear, and other appliances that can accomplish these goals effectively.

What Are the Duties of an Orthodontist?

The duties of an orthodontist vary but are generally concerned with the alignment and positioning of the teeth and jaws. Using special X-rays and extensive skill and knowledge, the orthodontist will do an examination and develop a treatment plan that generally takes from one to three years to complete. The treatment plan involves the use of appliances, such as braces, that are installed and carefully maintained during the period of treatment to accomplish the proper placement and correction of such common issues like gaps in the teeth and overbites. Regularly scheduled appointments, usually monthly, will ensure that the appliances are working appropriately and the goal of treatment is progressing as planned.

What Kind of Special Training Does an Orthodontist Acquire?

Are dentists and orthodontists the same? Not quite. An orthodontist must first complete the training as a dentist and then enter the specialized schools that are accredited to grant licenses in the field of orthodontics. In terms of the amount of time, generally, orthodontists must receive almost twice as much education as dentists. The training to become an orthodontist focuses on many different specialized topics including bone structure, growth, and purpose of the dental structures in the face, and similar topics.

What Happens at a Typical Orthodontist Appointment?

An initial orthodontist appointment will be like most first appointments. If you were referred by a dentist, the dentist’s records will most likely beat you there. The orthodontist will get acquainted and discuss the general nature of the visit and then follow with X-rays to get a better idea of what needs to happen. Afterward, a consultation will lay out the plan for orthodonture which will most likely begin on the next treatment.

After that visit, the orthodontist will inspect and adjust whatever appliance was installed on a monthly basis to ensure proper placement and continued treatment. For example, with the installation of braces, on the second visit most times the brackets are installed on each tooth and then connected with wires. During each visit, the orthodontist will check each bracket as well as the tightness of the wires. After anywhere from one to three years, when the treatment is complete, the orthodontist will remove the braces entirely and then prescribe post-treatment which is usually a retainer that can be worn at night only.

Is There Anything That Would Prevent the Orthodontist from Treating Me?

The orthodontist’s primary training is general dentistry so obviously, concerns about the condition of the teeth and gums could delay orthodontic treatment. It is extremely important to maintain excellent oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment. During the initial examination, if the orthodontist notices any type of gingivitis or cavities or just the need for additional training on the care of your teeth, he might delay installing any appliances until those issues are remedied.

While there are minor risks associated with receiving orthodontic treatment, those risks can be assessed and mitigated during the routine visits. The most important factor is the patient’s motivation and diligence in maintaining excellent oral hygiene during the entirety of the treatment.



How Do I Know if I Need to See an Orthodontist?

Most referrals to an orthodontist come from your dentist who may notice problems with the placement of your teeth that require treatment. Sometimes, patients will seek the expertise of an orthodontist solely for cosmetic reasons — they want a pretty smile! If you have any questions about whether or not orthodontic treatment is right for you, consult with your dentist who can help you make that decision.

Schedule an Appointment

In Illinois, you visit Childers Orthodontics to have an examination to determine if you need to straighten your teeth. Dr. Kyle R. Childers offers his services to adults, teenagers, and children in three locations that include:

Herrin – 618-997-1800
Harrisburg – 618-252-0770
Benton – 618-438-2815

After an evaluation of your mouth, our orthodontist can determine if you need to wear one of these types of devices:

Damon System – uses self-ligating brackets
Braces – made with traditional metal and wire brackets
Invisalign – aligners designed for teenagers or adults

Patients at Childers Orthodontics can also request the AcceleDent Aura system to reduce the amount of time required for their orthodontic treatment.  Schedule an appointment online or by calling (618) 438-2815.

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What Is an Orthodontist?

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