General Dentistry vs. Orthodontics: Key Differences

General Dentistry vs. Orthodontics: Key Differences

Are you pondering the distinction between general dentistry and orthodontics for your dental care needs? While general dentistry focuses on overall oral health, from cleanings to fillings, orthodontics specializes in aligning teeth and jaws to enhance your smile and bite.

Scope of Practice: General vs. Orthodontic

When considering the realm of dental care, it’s essential to understand the distinct roles that general dentistry and orthodontics play in maintaining oral health. General dentists are akin to primary care providers for your teeth, offering a broad range of services that cover everything from routine cleanings and fillings to more complex procedures like root canals and crowns. Their scope of practice is comprehensive, focusing on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide variety of conditions affecting the teeth, gums, and mouth. In contrast, orthodontists specialize in the alignment of teeth and jaws, employing braces, clear aligners, and other corrective appliances to adjust bite issues and straighten teeth. This specialization requires additional years of training beyond dental school to master the complex techniques necessary for reshaping a patient’s dental structure.

While general dentists can address many aesthetic concerns, those considering enhancements to their smile’s appearance often find themselves weighing options between different dental specialties. For a deeper dive into how general dentistry intersects with aesthetic treatments, you might explore the nuances in our detailed comparison, Cosmetic vs. General Dentistry: What’s the Difference? This resource can help clarify which dental professional to consult for specific cosmetic procedures, as the approach to improving your smile can vary significantly between general dentistry and orthodontics. Understanding these differences ensures that patients make informed decisions about their dental care and choose the right specialist for their individual needs.

Education and Training Requirements

General dentistry and orthodontics are both essential branches of dental care, but they differ significantly in their education and training requirements. To become a general dentist, one must complete a four-year undergraduate degree followed by four years of dental school to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. General dentists are trained to provide a wide range of services, including preventive care, diagnosis, and treatment of oral health issues. After dental school, they can immediately start practicing or pursue further training in a specific area of interest.

In contrast, orthodontists begin their journey in the same way as general dentists but must complete additional specialized training after dental school. This involves a two to three-year residency program accredited by the American Dental Association in orthodontics. During this period, they gain extensive experience in diagnosing, preventing, and treating dental and facial irregularities. Only after this additional education can they be considered specialists and are eligible to become board-certified orthodontists. For those seeking comprehensive dental care in Monrovia, Your Monrovia General Dentistry Clinic offers a full range of services to meet your oral health needs.

Treatment Focus: Health vs. Alignment

When distinguishing between general dentistry and orthodontics, the primary treatment focus is a defining factor. General dentistry is chiefly concerned with the overall health of your teeth, gums, and mouth. It encompasses a wide range of services aimed at preventing dental issues, maintaining optimal oral hygiene, and treating common problems like cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay. On the other hand, orthodontics specializes in the alignment of teeth and jaws, focusing on correcting irregularities such as crooked teeth, overbites, underbites, and malocclusions. While both fields aim to improve oral health, orthodontics is particularly dedicated to enhancing the functional and aesthetic aspects of your smile through alignment strategies.

Common Procedures: Fillings vs. Braces

When comparing general dentistry and orthodontics, the procedures they offer stand out as a primary differentiator. General dentists frequently perform fillings, a common procedure to treat cavities and restore the integrity of a tooth. Fillings involve removing decay and “filling” the affected area to prevent further damage. On the other hand, orthodontics is synonymous with braces, which are devices used to correct misaligned teeth and jaws for both functional and aesthetic purposes. While fillings address immediate tooth decay issues, braces are a long-term solution aimed at aligning teeth and improving bite function. Both procedures are essential in maintaining oral health but serve different purposes within dental care. To learn more about these treatments and how they can benefit your dental health, consider visiting Healthy Life Dental, where our experienced team is dedicated to providing top-notch dental care.

Patient Age Range and Specialization

When considering the scope of general dentistry versus orthodontics, it’s essential to understand the differences in patient age range and specialization. General dentists provide comprehensive dental care for patients of all ages, from young children to the elderly, encompassing a wide array of services such as cleanings, fillings, crowns, and even some cosmetic procedures. In contrast, orthodontists specialize in correcting teeth and jaw alignment, primarily focusing on adolescents and teenagers who require braces or other orthodontic devices, although adults can also be candidates for orthodontic treatment. This specialization requires additional years of training beyond dental school to master the complex techniques necessary for managing tooth movement and facial development. By recognizing these distinctions, patients can better choose the appropriate dental professional for their specific needs, whether seeking routine oral health maintenance or specialized orthodontic care.


For a complete range of general dentistry services that will keep your smile bright and healthy, call Healthy Life Dental at 626-256-3368 or read our reviews on Google Maps.


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