We have all heard about dentists since we were children. But not all dentists are the same. Some dentists, such as orthodontists, specialize in certain treatments to improve the look, feel, and function of our mouths. So, which should you see?
How to Compare an Orthodontist vs. Dentist
A Dentist Treats Your Mouth
Think of a dentist as a “doctor of oral health.” They not only know about the many diseases and conditions that can affect your teeth, gums, and mouth, they know how to prevent and treat those diseases.
That being said, you should not wait until you are in pain or think something is wrong before seeing a dentist. Regular dental visits can help keep your teeth clean and germ-free, and possibly find problems before they begin to affect you.
Other services a dentist might perform:
- Gum Care
- Root canals
- Dental Crowns and Bridges
- Sealants and Fluoride Treatments
- Teeth Whitening and Veneers
A typical dentist’s office will have one or more dental hygienists who help with routine teeth cleaning, X-rays, and more.
An Orthodontist Specializes in Straightening Teeth
Orthodontists are actually dentists, too. They go through the same licensing and have much of the same training. The main difference is that an orthodontist also goes through special training to learn how to straighten teeth.
Thus, you should see an orthodontist if you or your child have crooked or crowded teeth, a misaligned jaw, or a “bad bite.” Typical orthodontic treatments include braces, Invisalign, headgear, retainers, and similar appliances.
How Do You Find A Dentist or Orthodontist?
Whichever professional you are looking for, there are some steps you should take to help you find a trained professional and verify what you read in dentist reviews:
- Ask for recommendations. These can be from friends and family, or ask your current dentist if you have one. Many families find a new dentist when they move simply by asking for a recommendation from their current family dentist.
- Contact your local or state dental society. The ADA provides a list of local and state dental societies on its website, www.ada.org.
- When you’ve found some dentists, Google them. You are not only looking for dentists close to you but ones that have an established practice and positive reviews. (Be warned: not all reviews are legitimate.)
- Read the reviews…carefully. That said, not all review are legitimate. Find ones that relay a personal story or give details. Also, look at the date on the reviews. Sometimes, older reviews reflect dental staff that may no longer be with that office.
- Call. You can’t possibly learn everything you need to know from a quick internet search. Call the office and ask many questions. If the fit seems right, you can arrange an appointment to meet the new dentist or orthodontist in person.
What Should You Ask When You Call?
When you first call an office, there are some key questions you should ask:
- Where was the dentist educated and trained?
- How long have they been in practice?
- What are some common procedures used? What are the typical costs for these common procedures?
- What’s the dentist’s approach to preventive dentistry?
- What type of anesthesia is the dentist certified to administer to help you relax and feel more comfortable during any necessary dental treatment?
- What are their office hours? What is the dentist’s office policy on missed appointments?
- Does the dentist participate in your dental health plan?
Finding the Right Orthodontist vs. Dentist for My Kids
A dentist for kids is often called a pediatric dentist. Likewise, an orthodontist specializing in kids might be called a pediatric orthodontist, though they usually just say they specialize in “early orthodontic treatment.”
Dentistry for kids is not very different from dentistry for adults. What you will want to look for are dental professionals who are good with kids, and who understand the anxieties that kids naturally have when it comes to dentist visits.
After collecting your recommendations, ask each office whether they specialize in children, and how their practice meets children’s needs. See how they interact with your child on the first visit. It should become apparent whether they make your child comfortable, or not.
It is recommended that you make a dental appointment for your child as early as six months after their first tooth appears. This is usually around age 2. Most dentists and orthodontists also recommend that you have your child visit an orthodontist by age 7, whether or not there seems to be a problem. Children’s jaws are most flexible at this age, meaning that potential problems can be spotted easily and corrected.
Getting Ready for That First Appointment
Once you are satisfied that you’ve found an office that is right for you, make an appointment for that first consultation. There will be things to do to prepare for that visit. The most important thing will be to talk with your new dentist to see if you like him or her. Getting along with your dentist and feeling as if you are treated as a person, with respect, can make the difference between having a merely decent dental experience, and having a great one.
At The Happy Tooth, we believe that a healthier smile means a happier you. Schedule an appointment with one of our oral health professionals at a North Carolina location nearest you, and don’t forget to take advantage of our new patient special: