As a patient, you want to receive the best treatment from the person most skilled to do it. Therefore, if you are thinking about straightening your teeth you should understand the differences between an orthodontist and a general dentist.
General dentists can clean your teeth, carry out fillings and treat other issues related to your teeth and mouth. Think of dentists like your family doctor. They are great at managing general problems related to your teeth, mouth and gums. If you have a more specialised problem (like a heart condition) your family doctor would refer you to a heart specialist. This way you would receive the best treatment from the best person for your condition.
In a similar way, if you needed to straighten your teeth or have a bite problem corrected, your dentist should refer you to an orthodontist for an assessment. Be aware that general dentists who offer orthodontic treatment do not have the additional training, knowledge and experience to manage orthodontic problems that a specialist orthodontist has.
Orthodontics is an area of dentistry that specialises in straightening teeth and correcting bite problems.
- have already qualified as a dentist
- have completed a further three years of university training in orthodontics
- can straighten teeth and correct bite problems and imbalances in jaw growth
- work closely with general dentists and other specialists such as oral surgeons, gum specialists and cosmetic dentists to achieve the best results
- are experts in treating orthodontic problems in kids, teens and adults alike.
You should see a general dentist for your regular check-ups. If you are interested in straightening your teeth or correcting your bite you can ask your general dentist to refer you to a specialist orthodontist. Your general dentist may also advise you to see an orthodontist if they are concerned about your teeth and bite.
This follows good clinical practice as the Australian Society of Orthodontists recommends that patients only see a specialist orthodontist for orthodontic treatment.
If you do not have a regular general dentist to refer you to an orthodontist don’t worry. You can contact any specialist orthodontic practice for an assessment without a referral. The orthodontist will advise you to have a check-up with a general dentist before starting orthodontic treatment. This way both the general dentist and the orthodontist will work together to provide you with best clinical care.
Remember that all orthodontists are dentists but not all dentists are orthodontists.