Difference Between A Dentist And An Orthodontist

The Basics: What is a Dentist? What is an Orthodontist? And What, Pray Tell, is the Difference? Both dentists and orthodontists treat your teeth, albeit in different ways. A dentist (also called a dental surgeon in some areas) is a licensed medical professional. He or she specializes in the treatment of things pertaining to your mouth and teeth. This can involve everything from basic cleanings (usually done once every six months), fluoride treatments, dental x-rays, and the treatment of dental caries (aka the dreaded "cavity.") 

Dentist, Orthodontist, Oral Health, Health
Difference Between A Dentist And An Orthodontist
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Within the field, a dentist can also specialize in various treatment protocols and dental specialties--some of these include pediatric dentistry (dentists that specialize in treating young children), periodontists (those concerned with diseases of the gums and gum line), and orthodontics, to name a few. You may notice that "orthodontics" is awfully close to "orthodontist," and thus, we reach a point wherein some people end up confused. 

So What is an Orthodontist, then? 

Orthodontists are also concerned with your teeth, albeit with a different and specialized focus on the correct tooth positions within your mouth. They are professionals who use a variety of methods in order to correct common problems of teeth and the alignment of the teeth in the mouth. Even if you have never heard of an orthodontist before, most people have experience with someone they know spending a stint wearing braces. Metallic braces, glued to the teeth themselves and connected with a specialized surgical-grade wire, are some of the most common treatment options that are undertaken by those who wish to have straighter teeth or a better-aligned bite. 

Typically, the patient will then routinely visit the orthodontist (oftentimes a stand-alone specialty practice, but pediatric dentists can perform orthodontic treatment). The visits will vary in how they are spaced out, but for purposes of explanation, let us assume that the patient visits the "ortho'' every four weeks or so. In a typical treatment session, the ortho examines the patient's teeth and the progression toward the final treatment goal. 

The ortho then makes adjustments, subtly each time, to get the teeth to move to their desired positions over a defined treatment period. Some patients are able to have the wire-and-glue braces removed in as little as six months, but a more likely scenario is a year-to-two-year treatment plan, with some extreme cases lasting even longer. However, the treatment of misaligned or crowded teeth is progressing rapidly and the field reflects the variety of choices available to today's patients in their quest to perfect their smile. 

What Are My Other Options? 

If your teeth are crowded, crooked, or just don't quite satisfy your desired aesthetic or health goals, the first step is to seek out a quality orthodontist. As previously mentioned, for pediatric patients, this may be their standard dentist, but let's assume that this is for a patient who is not a young child. The importance of a good orthodontic treatment cannot be overlooked. 

It is the standard concept of "you get what you pay for," and unfortunately, making a decision based solely on cost could lead to an extended treatment time, wasted money on a low-quality treatment, or some combination of both. There is a reason why people should not take risks with discount health practices--you may pay less on the front end, but the pain, downtime, and potential for unintended consequence do not outweigh the benefits of choosing a quality treatment plan from a highly-respected and referred orthodontic provider. 

With that disclaimer out of the way, there is some good news. Metallic braces are no longer the only option for sprucing up your smile. At this point, most folks have some degree of familiarity with products such as Invisalign, which provides the teeth-straightening treatment that braces provide without the commitment to glue-and-wire over a prolonged period of treatment time. Products like this fall under a broad category known as "accelerated orthodontics." 

What Are Accelerated Orthodontics? 

Think of painting a picture. The artist invests a ton of time, effort, and materials into the piece of art. As the artist painstakingly works on the piece, they make subtle corrections as they work. But the frustrating aspect that must be dealt with is that while the work dries, it could still be disfigured if not properly left to dry out after the first application of paint. There is little the artist can do (save for some spray-paint artists who use heat to "seal" their work to a canvas very quickly) to speed this process along. 

Now imagine an orthodontist is a similarly-styled artist for your teeth. Does the constraint of time mean that there will be a mandated amount of time that is lost to waiting, with the patient left with no options but to count the seconds as they tick away toward their desired smile? Thankfully, not anymore. 

Accelerated orthodontics is a developing field, and an exciting one in the orthodontic community. Simply put, accelerated orthodontics are any series of products that are used in conjunction with more common treatment plans (such as aligners or metal-and-glue braces). As this is a developing field, it would be impossible to list every single product available on the market today, but to pick one as a focal point, there is a new and exciting product called "Vpro5" that is used in conjunction with other treatments to speed the process along. 

How Does the Vpro5 Work? 

Quite simply, the Vpro5 works with vibration. It appears very similar to an old-fashioned sports mouthguard with a small battery attachment at the base. By inserting it into the braces-or-aligner-treated mouth, the subtle oscillations produced by the Vpro5 speed the process of moving the teeth toward their desired final positioning. Think of it as a "gentle nudge" in the right direction. And the beauty of the product is that these gentle nudges are able to assist in providing an expedited smile in as little as five minutes a day when used in conjunction with other orthodontic treatments. 

To summarize, both dentists and orthodontists work on your teeth--but with different focal points. A dentist may be able to help straighten a pediatric patient's teeth, but a quality orthodontist--in conjunction with a treatment plan--and used with accelerated orthodontics such as the Vpro5--can straighten a smile beyond just filling cavities.

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