Dental health issues can have a negative effect on more than just your teeth and mouth. That's what makes it so important to get to the right dental professional for your specific needs, and knowing the differences between each role can aid you immensely in your search.
Dentists, dental hygienists, endodontists, and orthodontists perform different job duties. For instance, a dental hygienist supports a dentist by administering preventive dental hygiene care, tracking dental conditions, and performing screening procedures such as reviewing the patient's health history, checking their blood pressure, taking x-rays, and making impressions of their teeth. In addition, the dental hygienist informs the dentist of any potential problems they have detected while screening the patient and assists during dental treatments and procedures.
In a clinical setting, the dentist's role is of a more supervisory nature. They are the ones who conduct the dental exams and carry out the necessary procedures. The dentist also analyzes the patient information that was gathered by the dental hygienist during the screening process, diagnoses dental diseases, and creates the treatment plans. Additionally, they can offer referrals for their patients to see specialists, like endodontists and orthodontists, if need be.
An endodontist's job is to assess the health of the dental pulp and treat issues due to trauma or infection from caries. Some of the services they provide include the removal of infected tissue from the tooth's apex, known as apicoectomies, root canals, endodontic re-treatment after a failed root canal, and treatment for pulp damage resulting from traumatic dental injury, while an orthodontist's purpose is to prevent, diagnose, and treat dental and facial irregularities.
Simply put, an orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in the realignment of the teeth and jaw. With the aid of photographs, radiographic images, and dental scans, their role is to thoroughly examine your mouth, teeth, and jaw to determine the best course of orthodontic treatment for your individual needs.
Some common issues for which you would need to see an orthodontist are anteroposterior deviations like an overbite, which is the result of the upper teeth coming in front of the lower teeth when the patient bites down, as well as an underbite, which is when the lower teeth are in front of the upper teeth. The presence of an overbite or an underbite can inhibit your ability to eat and speak, thus disrupting your daily life and affecting your confidence level.
Orthodontists also deal with aesthetic issues when a bad bite or malocclusions have an adverse impact on the shape of the patient's face. They accomplish this by realigning and restructuring the jaw and teeth to improve the patient's smile and, in many cases, increase their confidence.
One of the most common issues orthodontists treat is overcrowding. This occurs when the jawbone lacks the space to accommodate the patient's permanent teeth, and they cannot line up properly with the existing teeth. Numerous noninvasive orthodontic treatments can be used to realign teeth that are overcrowded.
There are a number of orthodontic treatments that are provided by orthodontists to address issues resulting from malocclusions like a misplaced midline, overcrowding of the teeth, spacing or gaps between the teeth, overbites, underbites, open bites, and crossbites. Some of the appliances that are used to correct these problems are fixed, which means they cannot be taken out by the patient, while others are completely removable.
The most common fixed appliance used by orthodontists are braces, which are comprised of bands, wires, and brackets, and they are usually adjusted once per month. They work by gradually moving the teeth into the correct position, bringing them into appropriate alignment. Fixed space maintainers are another example of a fixed appliance. Their job is to maintain the empty space left when a baby tooth falls out prematurely until the adult tooth begins to erupt or come through the gum.
Removable appliances are also useful in treating various malocclusions. Aligners, such as Invisalign, are essentially invisible and are an effective alternative to braces for certain patients, particularly adults. Aligners are removed when you eat, brush your teeth, and floss. Another example is removable retainers, which are worn to prevent teeth from shifting back into their original position after the patient's braces are removed. Other removable appliances utilized by orthodontists in orthodontic treatments include, but are not limited to, headgear, removable space maintainers, and jaw repositioning appliances or splints.
While there is no specific minimum age requirement to receive orthodontic treatment, many orthodontists suggest that children have their first visit once their permanent teeth have begun to come in, normally around 6 or 7 years old. Oftentimes, the child's dentist will make a referral to an orthodontist based on the problems they have detected during a routine exam.
Certain orthodontic treatments should not be administered to a younger child. For instance, orthodontists recommend waiting until all of the permanent teeth have started to come in before a child gets braces. For girls, this is typically between the ages of 11 and 12, and for boys, it is closer to 12-13 years of age. Occasionally, two different phases of braces are necessary due to crossbites, or because the child is suffering from low self-esteem associated with their teeth. Phase one of braces can take place any time between the ages of 7 and 10 years but are not necessary for the vast majority of cases.
As previously mentioned, orthodontists and dentists carry out different job duties. Although orthodontists are dentists, they cannot practice general dentistry if they promote themselves as a specialist. General dentistry consists of procedures like crown and bridge therapy, removal of decay and filling cavities, and removable prosthetics such as partials and dentures. Orthodontics, however, is a specialty within the broader scope of dentistry which concentrates on the straightness of the teeth and malocclusion.
To become an orthodontist, a dentist is required to complete two to three years of additional schooling after graduating from an accredited dental school to focus on correcting jaws and teeth that are not in proper position. Dentists generally offer services associated with dental hygiene, gum disease, tooth decay, teeth whitening, bridges, crowns, and veneers. On the other hand, orthodontists are dentists who have obtained further education to specialize in dental issues related to crowded or gappy teeth, misaligned teeth, and overbites or underbites.
Ordinarily, most dentists are unable to provide the majority of orthodontic treatments to their patients. However, a general dentist can offer certain orthodontic procedures if they are regularly attending seminars and obtain the requisite experience on the subject. In fact, some general dentists with more experience, like Masters and Fellows, can perform hundreds of orthodontic procedures annually.
For example, a general dentist is required to participate in specific seminars before they are allowed to introduce an orthodontic treatment such as Invisalign to their practice. With Invisalign, a dentist can evaluate any issues with the alignment of the patient's teeth and create molds, which are already routine procedures in dental practices. Then, the molds are sent off to a laboratory that creates 10 to 20 sets of retainers. Because systems like this do not necessitate additional staff or new tools, more dentists are now offering this service to their patients. Similarly, a general dentist can offer their patients braces, if they take a significant amount of continuing education courses and acquire the appropriate experience.
Once you've determined your need for an orthodontist, the next step is to find one located near you. With Smileo, finding the right orthodontist has never been easier. Simply search for your city, postal code, or the name of a dentist or clinic. On the next page, you can adjust the search filters accordingly to find the best orthodontist for your particular needs.
Smileo allows you to filter results by types of dental and orthodontic treatments, facial aesthetics, straightening and braces and aligners. Further, you can select your language to filter results to find only orthodontists who speak the language in which you are most comfortable communicating. Once you've located the most suitable practitioner for your unique needs, you can get in touch with them for more information about the services they provide or to book your initial consultation directly from the Smileo website.
The health of your mouth, teeth, gums, and jaw has a significant impact on your overall health, so it is imperative to quickly address any issues that may arise, as putting off dental work can have a devastating effect and lead to disastrous results. Locating the right dentist or specialist for your individual dental health problems and needs can seem daunting. However, with the help of Smileo, you can target the best practitioner for your location, treatment needs, and spoken language, getting you back on your way to a healthy smile and a better quality of life more quickly.