Lots of people know they have to go to an orthodontist if they want their teeth straightened. But, being an orthodontist is a lot more than just straightening teeth. Today, we discuss what it means to be an orthodontic specialist and how orthodontists are different from dentists.
What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics (also called orthodontia) is a specialty field within the umbrella of dentistry. The main goal of orthodontics is to treat irregularities of the jaw and teeth, specifically occlusion and alignment. Generally, this includes applying braces (and other orthodontic appliances) for treatments.
Therefore, an orthodontist is a specialist in the field of orthodontics.
What makes an orthodontist different from a dentist?
Typically, dentists and orthodontists work together to help you obtain optimal oral health. However, when it comes to several of the conditions discussed above, you will have to schedule an appointment with your orthodontist so they can provide you with the treatments you need.
Similar to how you would see a heart surgeon for heart surgery rather than your family doctor, you’ll go to an orthodontist if you require treatment for teeth and jaw alignment problems, rather than your dentist.
How is an orthodontist's training different from a dentist's?
In order to become an orthodontic specialist in Canada, you need to be a dentist first! Typically, it takes approximately 12 years of formal university education from start to finish to become a certified specialist in orthodontics. This is a long process!
An orthodontist’s university career starts with a four-year bachelor’s degree, generally a Bachelor of Science degree. Then, the student goes to dental school, which is usually 4 years long.
After these 8 years of university, the student will officially be a general dentist! For many, this is when their career as a general dentist begins. However, others can opt to pursue a dental specialty, including orthodontics.
To specialize in orthodontics, a dentist needs to complete another 3-year Master of Science Degree and residency program. Also, lots of schools require students to complete an additional 1-2 years of formal training as a general dentist before starting a specialty residency, such as a hospital residency.
After graduating from the orthodontic specialty residency program, the graduate has to pass the national dental specialty board certification exam, which is governed by the Royal College of Dentists of Canada. If they pass, they will officially be a certified orthodontic specialist.