Orthodontics and dentistry help patients improve their oral health. A dentist is a medical specialist who treats teeth, gums, nerves, and the jaw, while an orthodontist is a dentist who corrects bites, occlusion, and teeth alignment. Similar to the cookie and Oreo analogy, the difference is that all orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are licensed orthodontists.
In this article, we will break down the differences between an orthodontist and a dentist, how orthodontics can help your smile, and what to expect during your first visit.
What similarities do dentists and orthodontists share?
Their main similarity is that they both specialize in oral health. Orthodontists can work in dental offices and provide the same care as dentists. Thus, they are somewhat similar in this regard. In essence, both are considered doctors who treat teeth and gums.
In what ways do they differ?
More differences exist than similarities. Orthodontists must obtain additional education to become dental specialists, as doctors do to become surgeons. Another difference is that orthodontists specialize in correcting patients’ bites, aligning their teeth, and fitting braces and other devices to improve their appearance. For example, a dentist will refer a patient to an orthodontist if they have an overbite.
Dentists advise on good oral hygiene and provide services related to:
- Teeth whitening
- Root canals
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay
- Dental orthodontists specialize in the alignment of teeth and help remedy oral issues such as:
- Misaligned teeth
- Teeth crowding
- Overbites and underbites
How do Orthodontists improve your smile?
Your oral health reflects your overall health. In addition to ensuring the proper function of teeth, orthodontic treatment helps your smile perform at its best. Your bite affects your ability to chew, bite, and speak, so you want to make sure yours is in tip-top condition! Misaligned teeth are a pain to clean, can wear down the tooth enamel prematurely, and in turn cause extensive and expensive dental work down the road.
Treatment for orthodontic problems is not a quick fix. It involves shifting teeth into new positions that cause changes to the jaw, facial bones, and soft tissue.
First, a thorough examination of your teeth and mouth will be conducted, along with a review of your dental records, including x-rays, photos, and models of your teeth. Your orthodontist will use this information to develop a tailor-made treatment plan.
When should I see an Orthodontist?
You might want to schedule a consultation with an orthodontist if you recognize any of these signs or concerns in your teeth:
- Difficulty chewing or biting
- A constant urge to breathe through the mouth
- Overcrowding, misplacement, or blocked-out teeth
- A jaw that shifts, produces sounds, or protrudes abnormally
- Have difficulty with your speech
- Biting your cheek or the roof of your mouth
- Teeth that are protruding
- Facial asymmetry
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- An inability to comfortably close your lips
What should you expect at your first orthodontist consultation?
It is quite common to get the jitters when experiencing something for the first time—the dental office is no exception! Here’s what you should expect when you visit your dentist for an orthodontics consultation, so you can plan ahead.
Ask For Your Health and Dental History
To get started, your orthodontist will have you fill out paperwork regarding both your dental and medical history. They are both very important. Therefore, make sure your information is accurate.
Your orthodontist reviews all your dental records. It helps determine when your last visit to the dentist was, when your last x-ray was taken, etc. Your orthodontist will consider all of this information together with your general medical history before making further decisions about your oral care.
Perform an Oral Exam
The next step of an orthodontic consultation is a dental exam and X-rays. A comprehensive oral examination allows your orthodontist to identify any issues that might not have been identified by your records. For instance, you might have a cavity that needs filling before getting braces.
This exam may consist of the following:
- Hand tools are used to examine your gums and teeth
- Use dental putty to get a mold of your teeth
- An x-ray of your teeth and jaw can be taken for dental imaging
Basically, it is the same as visiting the dentist. You should be familiar with this procedure if you have been to the dentist before. The oral examination and dental imaging determine if further treatment is necessary.
Construct Your Treatment Plan
Your orthodontist will then develop an initial treatment plan after reviewing your records and completing the examination. A treatment plan may include addressing dental issues first. Your dentist will be able to assist you with this.
Also included is what method will be used to achieve the best results as well as how long it will take. During the consultation, the treatment plan gives the patient a better idea of what to expect from the actual procedure.
Any questions you may have should be asked before the end of your session. Your orthodontist will be happy to answer them and address any concerns you may have.
As part of your service, you may also receive educational materials. These materials usually come in the form of brochures, so you can take them home and read them over.
Discuss Coverage Options
Once all of this information is gathered and your orthodontist has assessed what treatment is needed, the next step is to talk about insurance and payments. Orthodontic procedures differ in cost depending on each patient’s specific situation.
We will review your insurance and discuss the next steps with you. A variety of financing options are also available. What is most important to us is that you have the best orthodontic experience possible.
Schedule Your Next Appointment
Scheduling your first orthodontic appointment is the final step of the orthodontic consultation. Providing you don’t need to have any other dental work done beforehand, you can schedule the appointment. Usually, you can do this immediately following your first consultation. Our team would be happy to help you find the right date and time that works for you!
What’s stopping you from your first orthodontist consultation?
Anything new can be a little nerve-wracking the first time. Now that you know exactly what to expect at your first visit, you can put your nerves to rest.
Stop procrastinating and take the first step towards a better smile today! At The Family Dental Center, we proudly serve the community of Coralville, IA, and are always accepting new patients. Visit our patient resources page to set up your consultation and find out how we can help you get the results you are after!