Did you know that all orthodontists are dentists, but only 6 percent of dentists are orthodontists?

That statement may sound confusing, especially if you’re not familiar with the differences between a dentist and orthodontist. An orthodontist is a dentist who has specialized training in orthodontic care. Let’s start by looking at what a dentist does so we can further explain what makes an orthodontist a specialist.


What does a dentist do?                                                     

A dentist is qualified to treat the diseases and conditions that affect the teeth and gums. They provide guidance on diet, brushing, use of fluoride and other key aspects of dental care. They check general oral health, prevent oral disease, perform oral cancer screenings, clean teeth, and fix cavities. They also may perform root canals, and teeth whitening.

A dentist attends dental school in order to become licensed and skilled in this profession. It’s similar to medical school but focuses on oral health and hygiene rather than bodily health. A dentist must complete around 8 years total of higher education before practicing dentistry.

An orthodontist is specialized beyond what a dentist is, and has a more specific focus. Here are 5 things that make your orthodontist a specialist:


An Orthodontist…

Has Orthodontic Education beyond dental school

All orthodontic specialists have attended dental school, just as a dentist your regular dentist did. This means that all orthodontists have a degree that certifies them as a dentist.

However, orthodontists must also complete a two or three-year residency in orthodontics, receiving even more specialized training. This amounts to 4800+ hours of additional training in orthodontic care beyond dental school.


Specializes in straightening teeth

Orthodontic specialists specialize in straightening teeth and the structural issues that come with orthodontic treatment. This goes beyond what a dentist is trained and experienced in.

Straightening teeth deals with more than just the appearance of the teeth alone. When you straighten teeth, you also deal with moving the bone that the teeth are set in, which an orthodontist is trained for.


Specializes in aligning jaws

Straight teeth do not always mean a correct bite.

An orthodontic specialist focuses on correcting your bite – straight teeth that fit and function While it may seem like they’re just straightening your teeth, orthodontists attention to your bite, and may include correcting jaws. This impacts your overall health, including breathing, chewing, and other very important functions of your body.  Braces move the position of your teeth within your jawbone; which requires a trained specialist to monitor the way your teeth and jaw move, which is why seeing an orthodontist is so important.


Can choose the correct orthodontic treatment out of all available treatment options

An orthodontic specialist is up to date on the newest and best orthodontic technology. Orthodontists have extensive knowledge of orthodontic treatment options, and about which options work best for each individual case. In fact, orthodontics is one of the most advanced specialties as new technology and treatment options are constantly becoming available.

There are many options for orthodontic treatment, including traditional braces, clear aligners, lingual braces, and many other additional and corresponding treatment options. An orthodontist can examine your mouth and jaw to determine which treatment option or options are best for you and your individual case. They also monitor treatment and can change a treatment plan based on unexpected changes to the way your teeth and jaws may move.


You want to make sure that you are getting the best treatment possible for your health. That’s why you need to use a member of the California Association of Orthodontists for straightening teeth and jaw alignment. Visit a CAO orthodontist for a first consultation today.