Dental Talent – Choosing a Career – Comparing Dentists and Orthodontists

Plotting your dental healthcare career path can be frustrating, especially if you’re not familiar with the distinctions between being a dentist and an orthodontist. It can sometimes be confusing whether you should seek out one dental profession over the other. Although both are involved in the treatment and diagnosis of oral health problems, the two offer slightly different services.

What’s the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

Both professions go through the same education as a medical doctor. However, orthodontists need to receive further accreditation before they can go into practice. They must attend a residency program for an additional three years for their speciality certification.

It’s common to confuse one for the other, or for one medical professional to refer to the other when they have patients that they can’t treat. Some dentists can have an orthodontist certification that allows them to perform a broader range of treatments for their patients. Although one medical professional isn’t necessarily better than the other, it’s vital to know their scope so that you know if you’re on the right career track.

Should I become a dentist?

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Dentists are doctors who specialise in oral healthcare, from detecting illnesses to treating them. Generally, dentists need a pre-dentistry or pre-medical degree before they enrol in a graduate school of dentistry. Just like other doctors, dentists go through extensive training before they can receive certification.

Once they’re certified, they are now qualified to diagnose and treat different oral conditions. Listed below are several typical oral healthcare issues that they can address:

  • Conducting and interpreting X-rays on dental areas
  • Filling gaps in your teeth’s cavities
  • Extracting teeth of varying conditions
  • Repairing cracked teeth
  • Treating gum diseases
  • Teeth whitening treatments
  • Installation of crowns and veneers

If the treatments above aren’t to your liking, then you probably should be an orthodontist instead. In some cases, a dentist can refer their patient to their colleagues who are orthodontists if the diagnosis of the patient’s condition is beyond their speciality.

Should I become an orthodontist?

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You can consider orthodontists as dentists with specialities for tooth and jaw alignment conditions and treatments. Although they handle complications in the mouth, teeth, and gums, their forte is fixing a patient’s teeth and jaw’s proper form. Listed below are some of the treatments that they perform:

  • Diagnosing and treating misaligned teeth and jaws
  • Creating treatment plans for braces and retainers
  • Curing misaligned teeth through straightening surgery
  • Installation of dental appliances ranging from braces, palatal expanders, and orthodontic headgear

Although orthodontists are more known for straightening teeth, they can also assist in misaligned bites, tooth movement, and some forms of sleep apnea. If your patients have issues with their teeth’s alignment or a growing child is developing signs of tooth movement, they will consult with you for a professional diagnosis.


Figuring out your career track is never easy, regardless of what medical speciality you take. The best way to gauge whether you’re fit for one or the other is by asking your mentors. Getting a second opinion from people you respect and admire can give you a better understanding of what you should expect in the field. Whichever path you choose, remember that it’s not your title that defines you, but the quality of work that you provide.

If you’re looking for private associate dentist jobs, we can connect you with the right clients. Dental Talent is a dental recruitment job board that allows aspiring dentists to find the job of their dreams. Get in touch with us for more information.