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What is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

All orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists.

Back in the days of the super-popular sitcom “Friends,” Barry Farber was Rachels’ fiance before she moved in with Monica. Barry was an orthodontist and in one episode Barry and Rachel were going to a Halloween party. Barry came out dress in his normal work scrubs and Rachel asked, “What are you supposed to be?” Barry replied, “I’m dressed as a dentist, get it? But I’m actually an orthodontist!”

Often times our patients ask me if I can do a crown or a filling for them. I usually jokingly tell them, “Sure, but I haven’t done one in 15 years.”

So, what is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

An orthodontist is a dentist that has specialized in his/her field of practice. In other words, my work is limited to the practice of orthodontics (straightening teeth). Where is gets confusing, is that some patients will tell me that they general dentist offered to do braces or Invisalign treatment for them. In that situation, the dentist is widening his/her scope of procedures and offering to perform orthodontic treatment.


What separates treatment by the 2 practictioners is experience and training. In fact, during the 3 years of residency training all we do is orthodontics. An orthodontist narrows his/her scope of treatment to procedures only related to orthodontics. Of course our background of dentistry is there to tie into our orthodontic treatment, but we do not physically perform those general dentistry procedures.

An orthodontist really does have a unique set of skills to get you the best result in the most efficient way possible.

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