The word dentist means a specialist in teeth. “Dent” meaning tooth and “ist” meaning someone who specializes. So a Dentist is someone who specializes in tooth care. Other specialists all have “dontist” as part of their title, referring again to someone who specializes in teeth. The designation at the beginning of the title describes in what way they specialize. An endodontist refers to someone who treats problems within a tooth (endo meaning within), performing such procedures as a root canal. “Perio” means around, so a periodontist deals with issues around the tooth, primarily the gums.
“Ortho” is orthodontist comes from the greek word “
The educational backgrounds of a dentist vs an orthodontist or any of the other dental specialists are different. Both require extensive schooling before practicing. A dentist must complete 8 years of higher education while an orthodontist has to complete 10 or 11 years in order to specialize. Other specialists, such as a periodontist or endodontists, similarly are first trained as a dentist and then receive further education as a specialist.
A dentist will examine, diagnose, treat and manage your overall oral health care. This includes routine dental work like check-ups, cleaning and X-rays. But a dentist will also remove or repair problem teeth with fillings or crowns. Many dentists will also perform root canals, although this is often done by an endodontist. A periodontist deals with problems related to your gums such as periodontal disease and also places dental implants.
An orthodontist specializes in the alignment of your teeth and jaws using non-surgical procedures. They will examine and analyze your bite and treat malocclusions or bad bites as well as addressing and handling teeth that are out of alignment (crooked teeth, gaps, overlaps, etc.).
So you should see an orthodontist if you have an overbite, underbite, crooked teeth, gaps or overcrowded teeth. Your orthodontist will determine which treatment will straighten your teeth and retrain your mouth muscles best. You should also see an orthodontist if you have jaw problems or pain (usually referred to as TMJ) or if you grind your teeth, as often these can be caused by some form of malocclusion.
An orthodontist will work in tandem with your dentist to address any problems in his field of speciality to help achieve your best overall dental health.