What is the Difference between an Orthodontist and a Dentist that does Orthodontics?

Posted on by Dr. Jared Gianquinto

What is the Difference between an Orthodontist and a Dentist that does Orthodontics?

I get this question all of the time. In fact, I’ve been hearing it more and more lately, which is a good thing! It means that patients are becoming more educated about their treatment options, wary of advertising, and more inquisitive as a result.

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if your dentist is an actual specialist, since many dentists perform orthodontic procedures with Invisalign or braces. As a matter of fact, I did quite a bit of orthodontic treatment during my four years as a general dentist both in the military and private practice before going back to school to become an orthodontist. As with any of the specialty procedures I provided back then, I would ask myself, “Can I perform this treatment as well as a specialist?” There were some instances where I could confidently say with the training I received in dental school and my first Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency that my simple extractions, root canals, minor gum surgeries, single-tooth implants and limited orthodontic treatments were done just as well as the respective oral surgeons, endodontists, periodontists and orthodontists who trained me. When it came to anything more complicated, such as extraction of impacted 3rd molars, molar root canals, major gum surgeries, multiple implants and comprehensive or interceptive orthodontic treatment, I made sure my patients were taken care of by specialists with the training and experience to deliver the best results possible. During the last few months of orthodontic residency at Temple University, every resident, along with their supervising faculty member was required to present the results of every case to world-renowned orthodontists, who would decide if either graduation or additional training were in order. While going through my competency review, I revisited the cases I had treated in general practice as well. The patients had been satisfied with the treatment results at the time, but as a newly-minted specialist, I knew the work could have been done better.

Prospective patients often ask, “Why should I have an orthodontist straighten my teeth if my general dentist says he or she can do it?” General dentists receive some training in orthodontics in dental school, just as they are in performing procedures that fall under all other specialties. Since orthodontic procedures aren’t tested on any board exam for licensing to practice dentistry, and aren’t required to be performed on patients for ADA accreditation, dental schools don’t spend nearly as much time training dental students to perform orthodontic treatment as they do in endodontics, prosthodontics, periodontics and oral surgery.

Many general dentists attend weekend courses to build on their dental school education, which is very different from the two to three years of full-time formal training in a university environment that specialists must complete before being able to limit their practice solely to their specialty. During the roughly 5,000 clinical hours of training a specialist receives, full-length treatments are taken to completion under the supervision of highly experienced faculty who teach residents how to diagnose and treat all kinds of malocclusions, as well as manage complications on the rare occasions that they occur. On the other hand, weekend courses in orthodontics sometimes provide a certification in as little as 2 days with no actual hands-on training, and no help from a specialists in case something doesn’t go as planned.

Questions you should ask:

1. Did you attend a full-time, ADA-accredited residency program?

2. How many cases like mine have you treated? And how many cases like mine are you treating right now?

3. Have you ever had a case in aligners or braces that went wrong to the point that you had to ask an orthodontist for help?

4.  Have you or any of your family members been treated by an orthodontic specialist?

5. Are you a member of the American Association of Orthodontists? The California Dental Association? The American Dental Association?

If you’re considering orthodontic treatment, be sure to check your orthodontist’s credentials.  Specialists are very proud of the training they’ve received, and will be more than happy to tell you where they went to dental school and completed their residency. You’ll see their credentials on their website, on the wall in their office, and even their staff will be happy to tell you all about their doctor’s specialty training. They’ll even have a portfolio of completed treatment to show before and after photos of cases just like yours.

Orthodontic treatment can be a sizeable investment. Before you let anyone straighten your teeth, take the time to see a specialist who has the training and experience to make sure you’ll get the results you deserve. Consultations are free, and at the very least, you’ll know you did your homework.

NOTE: The author, Dr. Jared Gianquinto, is an orthodontist in the private practice of orthodontics in Bakersfield, CA. He was trained at Temple University and Naval Medical Center San Diego, completing orthodontic specialty training at Temple University. Dr. Gianquinto’s unique combination of extensive past general/cosmetic and current specialty orthodontic practice qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction treatment, clear aligners (Invisalign and ClearCorrect) and multiple bracket systems. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.

NOTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the Westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Because he has over 25,000 readers each month, it is impossible for him respond to all questions. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author. – See more at: http://www.gregjorgensen.com/blog/2015/03/what-is-the-difference-between-an-orthodontist-and-a-dentist-that-does-orthodontics/#sthash.f3s4c49l.dpuf
NOTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the Westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Because he has over 25,000 readers each month, it is impossible for him respond to all questions. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author. – See more at: http://www.gregjorgensen.com/blog/2015/03/what-is-the-difference-between-an-orthodontist-and-a-dentist-that-does-orthodontics/#sthash.f3s4c49l.dpuf
OTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the Westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Because he has over 25,000 readers each month, it is impossible for him respond to all questions. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author. – See more at: http://www.gregjorgensen.com/blog/2015/03/what-is-the-difference-between-an-orthodontist-and-a-dentist-that-does-orthodontics/#sthash.f3s4c49l.dpuf
OTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the Westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Because he has over 25,000 readers each month, it is impossible for him respond to all questions. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author. – See more at: http://www.gregjorgensen.com/blog/2015/03/what-is-the-difference-between-an-orthodontist-and-a-dentist-that-does-orthodontics/#sthash.f3s4c49l.dpuf
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