Dentist, Orthodontist, Periodontist… What’s the Difference?

Dentistry has different specialties where oral healthcare professionals can complete additional education and training to address specific conditions for patients. Although each of the following oral healthcare experts has completed training that would qualify them as a dentist, some have different titles based on their specialties.

So what’s the difference between common professionals in dentistry, including dentist, orthodontist, and periodontist?

Dentist: For Tooth and Gum Care

Your dentist is the professional you see when you need a teeth cleaning, a tooth extraction, or want to have your teeth whitened or restored. Dentists have completed their bachelor’s degree and then completed an additional three to four years in medical school to become a dentist. They also must complete a dental residency to gain experience before they can practice.

Dentists focus on dental hygiene, including preventative care, but also restorative and cosmetic procedures [1]. Your dentist can also help you take care of your gums, although there is another professional they can refer you to should you have more complex periodontal concerns. A dentist is typically the first person you’ll see before you see another oral health professional of a different specialty.

Orthodontist: For Straightening Teeth

Orthodontists have also completed training to be dentists. However, these professionals must complete additional training and education to become orthodontists. It typically takes two or more years for them to specialize in aligning teeth [2].

An orthodontist is not the professional you see when you’re having a toothache, receding gums, or need a teeth cleaning. Orthodontists exclusively focus on the alignment of the teeth and the jaw. Although it’s recommended that children get an orthodontic evaluation by age seven, both adults and children can see an orthodontist to consider straighter teeth.

Periodontist: For Specialized Gum Treatment

A periodontist specializes in treating patients with gum disease; however, they can also assist with dental implants [3]. A dentist may recommend you to a periodontist if you have a severe case of gum disease, unique challenges with your gum health, or recurring gum problems.

Periodontists typically complete an additional three years of training after receiving their dentistry education to specialize in gum health. A periodontist can perform gum surgery, such as gum grafts and laser surgery, as well as non-surgical treatments, including root planing and scaling (also called a deep cleaning).

Where Should You Start?

Generally, you would start with seeing a regular dentist before seeing a specialist. However, if you want to schedule a consultation for orthodontics, you would not need to see a dentist for doing so, and in most cases would not need a referral. Your dentist can evaluate your smile and let you know if you need to see a specialist for any additional treatment!

Sources:
1. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/questions-about-going-to-
the-dentist/
2. https://www3.aaoinfo.org/blog/is-my-dentist-also-an-orthodontist/
3. https://www.perio.org/for-patients/what-is-a-periodontist/

Summary
Dentist, Orthodontist, Periodontist… What’s the Difference?
Article Name
Dentist, Orthodontist, Periodontist… What’s the Difference?
Description
Dentistry has different specialties where oral healthcare professionals can complete additional education and training to address specific conditions for patients. What’s the difference between common professionals in dentistry, including dentist, orthodontist, and periodontist?
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Leesburg Premier Dental