What is an Orthodontist?

Similar to how doctors can choose their own specialties – such as orthopedics or neurology – dentists can pick an area of focus, too! 

There are many different types of dentists. This includes everything from a pediatric dentist to a periodontist and an oral surgeon. However, today we're here to talk about orthodontists. What is an orthodontist? And how do they differ from a normal dentist? 

What is an Orthodontist? 

An orthodontist is a dental professional that focuses on aligning your bite. This dental specialty involves making sure each patient's bite and jaw are properly aligned.

How Many Years Does it Take to Become an Orthodontist?

In total, it can take anywhere from 10-12 years after high school to become an orthodontist. 

Orthodontists are dentists, so they must acquire an undergraduate degree and complete dental school. After dental school, they have to spend two to three years continuing their education with a residency. A residency refines their skills and allows them to specialize in orthodontics.

Beyond this, orthodontic candidates need to pass a board exam and obtain a license to legally practice in their respective states.

What's the Difference Between an Orthodontist and a Dentist?

The obvious differences between orthodontists and dentists are the extra training associated with orthodontics and the specialization orthodontists focus on. They both help to improve and maintain the oral health of their patients, but in different ways.


Orthodontists primarily focus on aligning your teeth and jaw.  Besides applying braces and other bite alignment hardware, they are tasked with monitoring the facial and jaw development in children and young adults. 


The goals of a general dentist are to assist patients in preventing tooth decay and fixing damaged teeth. They focus more on preventative cleanings and tooth restoration than alignment problems. However, dentists know their fair share about teeth and can spot issues, then recommend you to an orthodontist.

What Can an Orthodontist Fix?

Orthodontists offer several treatment options to ensure your teeth are aligned and stay healthy and beautiful. 

Orthodontic treatment can fix any malocclusion, or tooth misalignment, that doesn’t require surgery. 

This includes:

  • Overjets 

  • Overbite

  • Deep Bite

  • Underbite

  • Cross Bite

  • Open Bite

  • Rotated Teeth

  • Overcrowding

How Can an Orthodontist Correct Tooth Alignment?

Orthodontists do more than just braces. Their job is to make sure your teeth and jaw are properly aligned, and they come together in a safe and aesthetically pleasing way.


Braces are the tried and true method to correct tooth alignment issues. Depending on your personal preferences, you can choose between traditional braces or ceramic braces. 

An orthodontist will conduct an initial visit, taking molds and x-rays of your teeth. Then, they use a computer program to create your exact treatment plan. 

Braces will require routine visits to the orthodontist so they can make adjustments and double-check that your teeth are moving as planned. While they aren't the most invisible option, braces tend to be the best option for children and adult patients. Braces are able to correct more severe orthodontic issues compared to clear retainers.

Clear Retainers

Clear retainers, such as Invisalign®, are becoming more popular for orthodontic treatment. This is thanks to their discreteness and similar price to braces. However, clear aligners have limitations – severe misalignment may require braces and other appliances.

Orthodontic Headgear

Orthodontic headgear is almost always used in conjunction with braces. Its purpose is to adjust your jaw alignment. Headgear is only needed if teeth misalignment is a result of poor jaw position. 

Your Local Orthodontist in Fremont, CA

Don’t wait until your malocclusion causes severe problems – visit our orthodontist in Fremont, CA for a comprehensive treatment plan. Not only will a straight smile help you live a healthier life, but you'll also feel more confident! Give us a call or request an appointment online today. 


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