Orthodontist vs. Dentist: what are the differences?

A good dentist can help establish a feasible plan for having a healthy smile. There are, however, certain issues that a dentist cannot correct. These typically pertain to the alignment of your bite, severe gaps or spaces between your teeth or the overall look and functionality of your jaw. For problems like these, you’ll need to see an orthodontist. Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that focuses on the alignment of teeth. An orthodontist is an expert who skillfully manipulates the teeth into the appropriate positions.

It’s quite common for orthodontists to work together with dentists in order to successfully correct a patient’s malocclusion, which is a term that describes an improper configuration of the teeth. Crowding, overbites, underbites and gaps are some common malocclusion classifications.

Why see an orthodontist?

There are countless benefits that people can gain by choosing to improve the alignment of their bites, overall tooth spacing and problems with tooth crowding. To start, properly spaced teeth are much easier to clean than are tooth structures that are positioned too closely together or overlapping. Moreover, balancing out bite forces by addressing overbites, under-bites, missing teeth and gaps can actually preserve the integrity of the natural tooth structures and extend their lifetime. When bite forces are uneven, certain tooth structures are subjected to far more pressure and stress than they’re designed to withstand. This additional stress can lead to chipping, fractures, the breakdown of tooth enamel and eventual tooth loss.

People who are in need of orthodontic correction are often encouraged by dentists to get the appropriate orthodontic treatment. For example, pediatric dentists can anticipate the formation of crooked or misaligned permanent teeth in teenagers. From there, they can point the patient in the direction of an orthodontist to correct the malocclusion.

It’s highly recommended that patients still visit their dentists for routine oral exams and cleanings while they are undergoing orthodontic correction. Poor oral hygiene can lead to cavities and other complications that might slow down the orthodontic process. For example, some braces might have to be temporarily removed before a new crown or large filling is installed in a damaged tooth. After a major dental procedure is completed on specific teeth, brackets and archwires can be replaced to resume orthodontic treatment.

How to know when you need orthodontic care

When preparing your smile restoration plan, a dentist may find that certain cosmetic and structural issues will be best addressed via orthodontic care. For instance, if overcrowded teeth have made it difficult for you to thoroughly floss, fixing the resulting cavities will only provide a temporary solution.

In situations like this one, an experienced orthodontist can implement treatments based on in-office examinations and the recommendations of your dentist. Our orthodontist can choose the perfect type of appliance for aligning your teeth and ensuring that there is ample room for the effective removal of plaque, tartar and the germs that feed on these substances. This way, you’ll have a much lower likelihood of developing new cavities in the future.

Types of orthodontic treatment

Braces are simple metallic devices that are bonded to the teeth. They are also linked to each other via metal wires that can be adjusted. Every month or so, an orthodontist needs to pull and manipulate the archwires in order to stimulate gradual movement of teeth. Over time, the roots and soft gum tissue also move into the right place.

A popular alternative to braces is known as Invisalign®, which is a transparent and removable mouthpiece. This device is specifically molded to fit over an orthodontic patient’s teeth. Invisalign® comes with its advantages. For one, adults can seek orthodontic correction without having to worry about revealing any metal and wires while talking or smiling.

Once braces or Invisalign® mouthpieces are no longer needed, orthodontists usually give patients retainers that can prevent relapses. Failure to wear the retainer may cause some straightened teeth to move back into their original positions.

Improving your oral health

For most people, the absolute best oral care plan is one that includes both a dentist and an orthodontist. Seeing an orthodontist is critical for resolving gaps, crowding and other alignment issues.

If you think you may need braces and have been looking for an orthodontist in the Oak Lawn area, we invite you to make an appointment at Petty & Bielik Orthodontics. Contact us today to schedule a free initial orthodontic consultation! Learn more about orthodontics on our blog.