Maintaining oral health is a fundamental aspect of overall well-being. A radiant smile not only looks beautiful but is an indicator of health. At Runnels Orthodontics, we are happy to serve Destin, FL, and we believe in the significance of comprehensive dental care, which often involves the expertise of both dentists and orthodontists.
Understanding the unique roles of dentists and orthodontists in oral healthcare is key to achieving optimal dental health. While they share a common goal of maintaining oral health, their areas of specialization differ significantly. At Runnels Orthodontics, under the experienced guidance of Dr. Scott Runnels, we provide orthodontics to our community, prioritizing patient education while promoting the well-being of everyone who comes through our doors.
Orthodontist vs. Dentist: The Basic Differences
What Is an Orthodontist?
An orthodontist specializes in the alignment of teeth and jaws, focusing on correcting irregularities that affect both oral function and aesthetics. They are experts in diagnosing and treating malocclusions (misaligned bites) using various appliances. Orthodontists undergo additional specialized training to equip them with the skills to guide facial development and tooth movement.
What Is a Dentist?
A dentist is a professional who focuses broadly on oral health. They are primarily concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of dental issues, including tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections. Dentists perform routine dental care such as cleanings, fillings, crowns, and bridges, serving as the first line of defense in maintaining overall dental hygiene and health.
Educational and Training Pathways
Requirements for Dentists
The educational path to becoming a dentist typically involves completing a bachelor’s degree followed by a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree from an accredited dental school. This education encompasses a comprehensive study of dental and biomedical sciences, clinical skills, and patient care. Post-graduation, dentists must pass national and state licensing exams to practice.
Requirements for Orthodontists
Orthodontists begin their education like dentists but continue beyond dental school. After earning a DDS or DMD degree, aspiring orthodontists undertake a specialized residency program in orthodontics, typically lasting two to three years. This advanced training focuses intensely on facial growth and development, orthodontic techniques, and biomechanics.
Core Responsibilities for Dentists
Preventative Care and Oral Hygiene
Dentists emphasize the importance of regular oral hygiene practices to prevent dental issues. They provide guidance on effective brushing, flossing, and the use of dental products like mouthwash and fluoride treatments to maintain oral health.
Routine Dental Checkups and Cleanings
Regular checkups and professional cleanings by dentists are crucial for early detection and management of dental problems. These checkups often include evaluating oral health, cleaning teeth to remove plaque and tartar, and assessing the need for further dental work.
Basic Restorative Treatments
Dentists perform restorative treatments such as fillings to treat cavities, crowns to cover and strengthen damaged teeth, and bridges to replace missing teeth. These treatments restore the functionality and appearance of teeth affected by decay or injury.
Minor Oral Surgeries
Dentists conduct minor oral surgeries, including tooth extractions such as wisdom tooth removal, and periodontal surgery to treat gum disease. These surgeries are often necessary to resolve infections and prevent further oral health complications.
Dental X-rays and Diagnostics
Using dental X-rays, dentists diagnose underlying issues not visible during a physical examination. These diagnostics are integral in identifying hidden dental structures, malignant or benign masses, bone loss, and cavities.
Core Responsibilities for Orthodontists
Diagnosing Bite and Alignment Issues
Orthodontists specialize in diagnosing and treating misalignments of the teeth and jaws, focusing on bite correction. They assess malocclusions (misaligned bites) and devise appropriate treatment strategies to address these issues.
Designing and Implementing Orthodontic Treatment Plans
Orthodontists create personalized treatment plans for teeth straightening and resolving crowded teeth. These plans may include traditional braces, clear aligners, and other corrective appliances, according to each patient’s specific needs.
Managing Braces, Aligners, and Other Appliances
As part of their role, orthodontists manage the application, maintenance, and adjustment of braces and aligners. A children’s orthodontist can help with the teeth straightening process once all adult teeth have grown in, and they can ensure the proper fit and comfort of orthodontic appliances.
Monitoring Orthodontic Progress and Adjustments
Regular monitoring and adjustments are essential in orthodontics. Orthodontists assess progress and make necessary changes to the treatment plan. Emergency orthodontists can also help with urgent matters such as fixing broken braces or aligners.
Collaborating With Dentists for Comprehensive Care
Orthodontists often collaborate with dentists to ensure comprehensive oral care. This teamwork is crucial, especially in complex cases where orthodontic treatment is part of a broader dental care plan.
- Braces: Orthodontists offer various types of braces, including traditional metal, ceramic, and lingual braces. Each type is designed for specific needs and preferences, offering effective teeth alignment solutions.
- Invisalign® and Clear Aligners: Invisalign and other clear aligners, managed by orthodontists, provide a less visible teeth straightening option. These aligners are custom-made and ideal for patients seeking discreet treatment.
- Orthodontic Retainers: Post-treatment, orthodontists often provide retainers to maintain teeth position. Retainers are an important part of ensuring long-term results after the active orthodontic treatment phase.
- Jaw Realignment Therapies: Specializing in orthodontics and bite correction, orthodontists offer therapies for jaw realignment. These treatments address issues related to jaw position and function, contributing to improved oral health and aesthetics.
Knowing When to Visit Your Orthodontist
Knowing when to visit your orthodontist is important for maintaining optimal oral health. In emergencies, such as broken braces or severe discomfort, contacting an emergency orthodontist right away is crucial. For non-emergency scenarios, regular visits are important for monitoring orthodontic progress, making necessary adjustments, and ensuring overall treatment effectiveness. These routine check-ins also provide an opportunity to address any concerns or questions about your orthodontic care.
Making the Right Choice for Your Dental Health
At Runnels Orthodontics, we specialize in transforming smiles and correcting crowded teeth, ensuring each patient receives the highest quality care. Based in Destin, FL, our orthodontic services are designed to meet your unique needs, whether for routine care or more complex treatments. To learn more or to start your orthodontic journey, fill out our online form or give us a call at (850) 269-0333 for a consultation.