Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that specializes in straightening teeth. While all orthodontists are dentists, not all dentists are orthodontists. Generally speaking, if a person is wondering if they should see an orthodontist vs dentist for bite problems, an orthodontist is usually the best bet.
Orthodontist vs Dentist
A dentist provides basic check-ups and teaches patients about good oral hygiene. They will also treat patients for cavities and gum disease. Dentists may also provide the following treatments or services: root canals, veneers, teeth whitening and crowns.
An orthodontist provides more specialized care, and a dentist will often refer their patients to one for certain treatments. Orthodontists treat people with misaligned teeth and bite problems, so they treat problems like crowding, overbites and cross bites. They can also take care of jaw problems.
What are Bite Problems?
Bite problems, more formally known as malocclusion, are misalignments of the teeth that can interfere with chewing or strain the jaws or teeth. Bite problems can also increase the chances of tooth decay because they can make cleaning the teeth more difficult.
Crooked teeth and bite problems like overbites usually run in families. Bite problems, however, can also be caused by prolonged bad habits like thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting, gum disease, tumors, jaw injuries and premature loss of baby or adult teeth. Since fixing bite problems generally involves straightening teeth and/or correcting alignment, these patients are generally referred to an orthodontist.
What is the Two-Phase Treatment?
A two-phase treatment divides orthodontic treatments into two distinct phases. The current thinking holds that children should first see an orthodontist when they are around seven years old. By that age, their adult teeth are starting to grow in, and the orthodontist can examine them for potential problems like an abnormally narrow upper palate.
Since a child’s bones are relatively soft and still growing, it is easier to treat many jaw problems in a child than in an adult. For example, a child with an abnormally narrow upper palate can simply wear a palatal expander for a few months; an adult with the same problem would likely need surgery.
During the first phase, the orthodontist will treat any jaw problems that can interfere with the proper eruption and alignment of the adult teeth. For example, a too-narrow upper jaw can cause crowding. Widening the upper jaw will ensure there is sufficient room for all the adult teeth to grow in properly.
After finishing the first phase of the treatment, the orthodontist waits until the child’s adult teeth (except the wisdom teeth) have finished growing in. After the adult teeth have finished emerging when the child is in their early teens, the orthodontist may start the second phase of the treatment, during which they correct any remaining alignment problems.
In some cases, there is no phase two. Correcting the jaw disorders during the first phase solved all the problems, and the child’s adult teeth grew in properly and are perfectly straight. In other cases, the child still has some crooked or misaligned teeth, and they will need braces. When it comes down to seeing an orthodontist vs dentist, an orthodontist is the only one who can adequately make these decisions.
Talk to Our Team
With offices in Panama City Beach and Destin, Runnels Orthodontics is your go-to for all things orthodontics. Our orthodontist can evaluate your bite problem and come up with a personalized treatment plan for you. Dr. Runnels is happy to serve clients in the following cities: Fort Walton Beach, Niceville, Freeport, Miramar Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Seaside, Rosemary Beach, Panama City Beach and Panama City.