What Does an Orthodontist Do?

Hey there! Have you ever wondered, “What does an orthodontist do?” You may have heard the term before, but you might not be entirely sure what it means if you’re like most people. Orthodontists are dental specialists who focus on correcting irregularities in the teeth and jaws, which can significantly impact a person’s appearance, speech, and overall health.

You might think, “Okay, but what exactly does that involve?” An orthodontist uses various techniques to diagnose, prevent, and treat problems with the teeth and jaws. This can include everything from traditional braces and retainers to more modern treatments like clear aligners. If you’re wondering about the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist, it’s mainly about the specialized training and focus on correcting misalignment.

But it’s not just about straightening teeth for a perfect smile. Orthodontists also help patients with difficulty biting or chewing, speech problems, and even sleep apnea. By correcting these problems, an orthodontist can improve a person’s quality of life in countless ways. For more specific information on who does veneers, check out this resource.

So, if you’re curious about what an orthodontist does and how they can help you, keep reading! We’ll take a closer look at the fascinating world of orthodontics and explore some of the incredible benefits that orthodontic treatment can provide.

What Is an Orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dental specialist who focuses on diagnosing, preventing, and treating irregularities in the teeth and jaws. They are experts in dentofacial orthopedics, which involves studying and treating misaligned teeth and jaws.

Orthodontists undergo specialized education and training beyond dental school to gain expertise. After completing their dental degree, they must complete two to three years of advanced training in orthodontics. This training gives them the knowledge and skills to effectively diagnose and treat various orthodontic issues according to the American Association of Orthodontists.

One of the primary responsibilities of an orthodontist is to diagnose orthodontic problems. They use various diagnostic tools and techniques, such as x-rays and dental impressions, to evaluate the position of the teeth and jaws and identify any irregularities or abnormalities. They may also examine a patient’s facial structure and consider their medical history and lifestyle habits to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

Once an orthodontic problem has been diagnosed, the orthodontist will work with the patient to develop a treatment plan. This may involve a variety of orthodontic appliances, such as braces, clear aligners, or retainers. The orthodontist will carefully monitor the progress of the treatment over time and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that the teeth and jaws are moving in the right direction.

In addition to correcting misaligned teeth and jaws for cosmetic reasons, orthodontists also play a critical role in improving their patients’ overall health and well-being. Crooked or crowded teeth can be challenging to clean, increasing the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health issues. Misaligned jaws can also cause problems with speech, chewing, and even breathing. By correcting these issues, orthodontic treatment can improve a patient’s oral health, self-esteem, and overall quality of life, as stated by the Mayo Clinic.

An orthodontist is a highly skilled dental specialist who plays a critical role in correcting many orthodontic problems. Their expertise in dentofacial orthopedics and commitment to helping their patients achieve optimal oral health and well-being make them an essential part of the dental healthcare team. But do orthodontists do surgery, and what is an orthodontist?

What Does an Orthodontist Do?

An orthodontist is a dental specialist specializing in diagnosing, preventing, and correcting misaligned teeth and jaws. They work to improve the function and appearance of the teeth and jaw through the use of braces, aligners, and other orthodontic devices. Orthodontists are trained in using various techniques to straighten teeth, correct bites, and improve the mouth’s overall health.

Here is a more detailed explanation of what an orthodontist does:

  • Evaluate Patients: Orthodontists evaluate patients to determine the best course of treatment for their specific needs. This involves examining the teeth, jaws, and mouth to identify problems such as crowding, overbites, underbites, crossbites, or spacing issues.
  • Develop Treatment Plans: Once the orthodontist has evaluated the patient, they will develop a treatment plan tailored to their needs. This plan will take into account the severity of the problem, the age of the patient, and the patient’s overall health.
  • Install Braces and Aligners: Orthodontists use various devices to straighten teeth and correct bite issues. The most common devices are braces and aligners. Braces are metal or ceramic brackets attached to the teeth, and a wire is threaded through the brackets to move the teeth into the desired position gradually. On the other hand, Aligners are clear plastic trays that fit over the teeth and are worn for some time to move the teeth into the desired position gradually.
  • Monitor Progress: Orthodontic treatment is typically a long process, and the orthodontist will need to monitor the patient’s progress regularly to ensure that the treatment is progressing as planned. This may involve adjusting the braces or aligners as needed or changing the treatment plan.
  • Remove Braces and Retainers: Once the orthodontic treatment is complete, the orthodontist will remove the braces or aligners and fit the patient with a retainer. The retainer is designed to hold the teeth in their new position and prevent them from returning to their original work.
  • Follow-Up Care: After the orthodontic treatment, the patient must continue seeing the orthodontist for follow-up care. This may involve periodic check-ups to ensure the teeth stay in their new position or additional treatment to address further issues.

An orthodontist is critical in helping patients achieve a healthy, straight, and functional smile. They work to correct various dental issues, from simple crowding to more complex bite problems, using different techniques and devices to achieve the best possible outcome for each patient. So, what does an orthodontist do besides braces?

How Long Does It Take To Become an Orthodontist?

Becoming an orthodontist requires a significant amount of education and training. Here is a detailed breakdown of the steps required to become an orthodontist and how long each step typically takes:

  1. Undergraduate Degree: To become an orthodontist, you must obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. This typically takes four years to complete.
  2. Dental School: After completing your undergraduate degree, you must attend dental school. The dental school typically takes four years to complete, and during this time, you will learn the skills necessary to become a general dentist.
  3. Residency: After dental school, you must complete a specialized orthodontic residency program. These programs typically take two to three years to complete and provide intensive orthodontic diagnosis and treatment planning training. During the residency, you will also gain hands-on experience working with patients under the supervision of experienced orthodontists.
  4. Licensure: Once you have completed your residency, you must become licensed to practice as an orthodontist. Licensure requirements vary by state but typically include passing a written and practical exam.

Becoming an orthodontist typically takes at least ten years of education and training beyond high school. This includes four years of undergraduate study, four years of dental school, and two to three years of residency training. After completing these requirements, you must become licensed to practice as an orthodontist before seeing patients independently.

It’s worth noting that some orthodontists may choose to pursue additional training beyond the minimum requirements, such as completing a fellowship or earning a master’s degree in orthodontics. These extra steps can take spare time and may be necessary to advance in the field or specialize in a specific area of orthodontics.

When Should You See an Orthodontist?

There are a few reasons someone might want to see an orthodontist. Here are some of the most common situations where it may be a good idea to schedule an appointment:

  • Crooked or Misaligned Teeth: If you have crooked, crowded, or misaligned teeth, an orthodontist can help straighten them. This can improve your smile’s appearance and make it easier to clean your teeth properly, reducing your risk of cavities and gum disease.
  • Bite Problems: Bite problems refer to issues where your teeth don’t come together correctly when you bite down. This can include overbite (when the upper teeth stick out too far over the lower teeth), underbite (when the lower teeth stick out farther than the upper teeth), or crossbite (when the upper teeth don’t come down in front of the lower teeth when biting). Bite problems can cause speaking, eating, and jaw pain, so you must see an orthodontist if you are experiencing any of these issues.
  • Mouth Breathing: If you find yourself breathing through your mouth instead of your nose, especially while you sleep, an orthodontist may be able to help. Mouth breathing can lead to several issues, including dry mouth, bad breath, and even sleep apnea. An orthodontist can evaluate your jaw and airway to determine if orthodontic treatment could help improve your breathing.
  • Jaw Pain: If you are experiencing jaw pain, especially when chewing or speaking, an orthodontist may be able to help. Jaw pain can be caused by several factors, including bite problems and misaligned teeth, so seeing an orthodontist is essential to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
  • Early Intervention: Orthodontic treatment can be most effective when started early, sometimes as early as age 7. If you notice any issues with your child’s teeth or bite, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with an orthodontist to determine if early intervention is necessary. This can help prevent more severe problems from developing later on.

In general, if you are experiencing any issues with your teeth, bite, or jaw, it’s a good idea to schedule a consultation with an orthodontist. They can evaluate your situation and develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

What Is the Difference Between an Orthodontist and a Dentist?

Both orthodontists and dentists work in oral health and play essential roles in maintaining healthy teeth and gums. However, there are some critical differences between these two professions. Dentists focus on oral health issues, while orthodontists align teeth and jaws.

Here are some apparent differences between orthodontists and dentists:

Education and training

Dentists complete a four-year undergraduate degree and a four-year doctoral degree in dentistry. After graduation, they must pass a licensing exam to practice dentistry. Some dentists may also pursue additional training in a specialized field of dentistry, such as orthodontics.

Orthodontists are dentists who have completed an additional two to three years of specialized training in orthodontics after earning their dental degree. This additional training provides orthodontists with the knowledge and skills to diagnose and treat complex orthodontic cases.

Focus of practice

Dentists provide a wide range of oral health services, including preventive care (such as cleanings and check-ups), restorative care (such as fillings and crowns), and cosmetic dentistry (such as teeth whitening and veneers). They may also diagnose and treat oral health problems such as gum disease, tooth decay, and oral infections.

Orthodontists, on the other hand, specialize in diagnosing and correcting misaligned teeth and jaws. They use a variety of treatments, including braces, aligners, and other orthodontic appliances, to straighten teeth and improve bite function. Orthodontists may also work with patients with dental and facial abnormalities, such as cleft palate.

Tools and equipment

Both dentists and orthodontists use various tools and equipment in their practice. Dentists use drills, probes, and X-ray machines to diagnose and treat oral health problems. They may also use dental materials such as fillings, crowns, and dentures to restore damaged or missing teeth.

Orthodontists use specialized tools and equipment to diagnose and treat orthodontic issues. These may include braces, aligners, retainers, and other orthodontic appliances. They may also use 3D imaging technology to create custom treatment plans for each patient.


Dentists treat patients of all ages, from young children to the elderly. They may care for patients with various oral health issues, from routine check-ups to more complex dental problems.

Orthodontists typically treat patients who are in their early teens or older. This is because orthodontic treatment is most effective when the jaw and teeth are still developing. However, some orthodontists also provide therapy for young children with orthodontic problems.

In summary, while dentists and orthodontists work in oral health, these professions have some critical differences. Dentists provide a broad range of oral health services, while orthodontists specialize in aligning teeth and jaws. Orthodontists also undergo additional education and training to develop expertise in this specialized area of dentistry. Now you know everything about orthodontists vs. dentists.

How Do Orthodontists Create Customized Treatment Plans?

Orthodontists create customized treatment plans for each patient based on various factors, including the specific orthodontic problem being treated, the patient’s age, severity, and individual goals and preferences. Here’s a detailed look at how orthodontists create customized treatment plans:

  1. Examination and Diagnosis: The first step in creating a customized treatment plan is thoroughly examining and diagnosing the patient’s teeth and jaw. This typically involves taking X-rays, photographs, and impressions of the teeth and mouth and conducting a physical examination.
  2. Analysis of Diagnostic Information: Once the diagnostic information has been gathered, the orthodontist will analyze the data to determine the specific orthodontic problem that needs to be addressed. This may include assessing the position of the teeth and jaws, identifying bite problems, and evaluating facial and jaw structure.
  3. Selection of Treatment Options: Based on the diagnosis, the orthodontist will determine which treatment options are most appropriate for the patient. This may include traditional braces, clear aligners, or other orthodontic appliances.
  4. Customization of Treatment Plan: Once the appropriate treatment options have been identified, the orthodontist will customize a treatment plan tailored to the patient’s needs and goals. This may involve selecting particular braces or aligners, determining the length of treatment, and developing a schedule for adjustments and follow-up care.
  5. Communication and Collaboration: The orthodontist will work closely with the patient and their family throughout the treatment process to ensure everyone understands the treatment plan and what to expect. This may involve regular check-ins and communication about progress and adjustments to the treatment plan as needed.
  6. Monitoring Progress and Adjusting Treatment: As treatment progresses, the orthodontist will closely monitor the patient’s progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed. This may involve changing the types of appliances used, adjusting the timing of appointments, or recommending additional treatments as necessary.

Creating a customized treatment plan requires careful analysis, collaboration, and ongoing monitoring to ensure the patient receives the best possible care and achieves the desired outcome. By working closely with an experienced and knowledgeable orthodontist, patients can achieve a healthy, functional, and aesthetically pleasing smile they can be proud of for years.

Factors To Consider When Selecting an Orthodontist

Choosing the right orthodontist is an important decision that can significantly impact the success of your orthodontic treatment. Here are some factors to consider when selecting an orthodontist:

  • Credentials and Experience: One of the most important factors to consider when selecting an orthodontist is their credentials and experience. Look for an orthodontist who is board-certified and has completed additional training in orthodontics beyond dental school. You can also ask about the orthodontist’s experience treating patients with your specific orthodontic issue.
  • Treatment Options: Another essential factor to consider is the orthodontist’s range of treatment options. Look for an orthodontist who offers a variety of treatment options, including traditional braces, clear aligners, and other orthodontic appliances. The orthodontist should be able to recommend the best treatment option for your specific needs and goals.
  • Technology and Techniques: Advances in orthodontic technology and techniques have made orthodontic treatment more comfortable and efficient. Look for an orthodontist who uses the latest technology and techniques, such as 3D imaging and digital scanning, to provide the most accurate and effective treatment.
  • Office Environment and Staff: The office environment and staff can also affect your orthodontic treatment experience. Look for an orthodontist with a clean, modern office and friendly and knowledgeable staff. You should feel comfortable and confident in the orthodontist’s ability to provide the best care.
  • Cost and Insurance: Orthodontic treatment can be a significant financial investment, so it’s essential to consider the cost and insurance options when selecting an orthodontist. Look for an orthodontist who offers transparent pricing and payment options and who accepts your insurance or offers financing options.
  • Location and Convenience: Finally, consider the location and convenience of the orthodontist’s office. Look for an orthodontist in a convenient location with flexible scheduling options that fit your schedule.

Overall, selecting the right orthodontist requires careful consideration of various factors, including credentials and experience, treatment options, technology and techniques, office environment and staff, cost and insurance, and location and convenience. By taking the time to research and select the right orthodontist, you can ensure that you receive the best possible care and achieve the best possible outcome from your orthodontic treatment.

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