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Orthodontist vs dentist vs dental surgeon: Making informed choices for your dental health

When it comes to dental health, we often hear about the roles of orthodontists, dentists, and dental surgeons. But what exactly do these specialists do, and how do they differ? If you’ve ever found yourself pondering these questions while sitting in the dentist’s chair, you’re not alone. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the services offered by orthodontists, dentists, and dental surgeons, compare their costs, explore the advantages and disadvantages of each specialist, and provide insights on when to seek treatment from them. Let’s embark on a journey through the world of dental care, debunking common misconceptions along the way.

What are the differences among orthodontists, dentists and dental surgeons?


Orthodontist putting braces

Orthodontists are dental specialists who primarily focus on the alignment of teeth and jaws. Their expertise lies in diagnosing and treating issues related to crooked teeth, misaligned bites (malocclusions), and facial irregularities. You may have heard of orthodontists as the professionals who provide braces and other orthodontic appliances to straighten teeth and correct bite problems.


Dentists, on the other hand, are the general practitioners of the dental world. They offer a wide range of dental services aimed at maintaining your oral health, diagnosing dental issues, and providing necessary treatments. Dentists are your first point of contact for routine check-ups and most dental concerns.

Dental surgeons

Dental surgeons

Dental surgeons, also known as oral and maxillofacial (jaw and face) surgeons, are specialists who deal with complex surgical procedures involving the mouth, jaws, face, and neck. While their scope of practice extends beyond dentistry, their dental expertise is crucial in addressing severe dental and facial issues that require surgical intervention.

What services do orthodontists, dentists, and dental surgeons offer?


  • Braces: Traditional metal braces, ceramic braces, and even clear aligners like Invisalign fall under their purview. These appliances gradually move teeth into their correct positions.
  • Retainers: After orthodontic treatment, retainers are often prescribed to maintain the achieved results by preventing teeth from shifting back.
  • Orthodontic evaluation: Orthodontists assess the alignment of your teeth and jaws, identify issues, and develop treatment plans tailored to your specific needs.
  • Surgical orthodontics: In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to correct severe jaw misalignments.



  • Preventive care: This involves routine check-ups, cleanings, and oral hygiene instructions to prevent dental issues from arising in the first place.
  • Restorative treatments: Dentists can repair damaged teeth with procedures such as fillings, crowns, and root canals.
  • Cosmetic dentistry: From teeth whitening to veneers, dentists can enhance the appearance of your smile.
  • Extractions: Dentists can perform tooth extractions, including wisdom teeth removal, when necessary.
  • Oral health education: Dentists educate patients about maintaining proper oral hygiene and diet to prevent dental problems.


Dental surgeons

  • Extractions: They handle complex extractions, including impacted wisdom teeth or teeth damaged by trauma.
  • Dental implants: Dental surgeons are experts in implant placement, which involves surgically anchoring artificial teeth to the jawbone.
  • Orthognathic surgery: This surgery corrects severe jaw misalignments that can’t be treated with orthodontics alone.
  • Facial trauma: Dental surgeons are trained to address facial injuries, such as fractures or lacerations.
  • Reconstructive surgery: They can reconstruct the facial and oral structures after injuries or cancer surgery.

Now that we have a clearer picture of the services offered by orthodontists, dentists, and dental surgeons, let’s dive into a comparison of these dental specialists.

How do costs compare among orthodontists, dentists, and dental surgeons?

Cost is often a significant factor in choosing dental care. While prices can vary widely depending on factors like location and the complexity of the procedure, here’s a general overview of the cost comparison:

  • Dentists: Routine check-ups and preventive care are usually the most affordable dental services. Restorative treatments like fillings and crowns vary in cost depending on the materials used. Cosmetic procedures tend to be more expensive.
  • Orthodontists: Orthodontic treatment costs can range from moderate to relatively high, with braces typically costing more than clear aligners. The duration of treatment also affects the total cost.
  • Dental surgeons: Surgical procedures performed by dental surgeons can be the most expensive due to the complexity and expertise required. Dental implant surgery, for example, can be a substantial investment.

It’s essential to note that dental insurance may cover a portion of these costs, so checking your insurance plan’s coverage is advisable. Here at WeSmile+, we aim to provide affordable and accessible dental care. Visit our pricing page for more information.

When should you seek treatment from each dental specialist?

dental visit

The choice between an orthodontist, dentist, or dental surgeon largely depends on your specific dental needs. Here are some considerations to help you make an informed decision:

  • Dentist: Dentists are typically your first stop for routine check-ups, scaling and polishing, cavities, gum disease, and other minor dental problems. They can also handle restorative treatments and cosmetic procedures. If you’re unsure where to start, begin with a dentist for a comprehensive evaluation.
  • Orthodontist: Seek an orthodontist if you have issues with the alignment of your teeth or jaws, such as crooked teeth, gaps, bite problems, or facial irregularities. They are the go-to specialists for straightening teeth and correcting malocclusions.
  • Dental surgeon: If you have complex dental issues, require oral surgery, or need dental implants, consult a dental surgeon. They have the expertise to address severe dental and facial problems.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each dental specialist?

Each type of dental specialist has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Understanding these can help you make the right choice for your dental care:

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Expertise in aligning teeth and correcting bite issues.
  • Specialised orthodontic appliances like braces and clear aligners.
  • Focus on long-term oral health and aesthetics.
  • Limited scope of practice primarily related to orthodontic issues.
  • Longer treatment duration for some cases.
  • Comprehensive oral health care, including preventive, restorative, and cosmetic treatments.
  • Convenient for routine check-ups and minor dental problems.
  • Versatile and often your first point of contact for any dental issue.
  • Limited expertise in complex surgical procedures.
  • May refer patients to specialists for certain conditions.
Dental surgeons
  • Expertise in complex surgical procedures involving the mouth, jaws, and face.
  • Ability to handle severe dental and facial trauma.
  • Specialised knowledge in implant placement and orthognathic surgery.
  • Higher cost for surgical procedures.
  • May require a referral from a dentist or orthodontist for non-surgical issues.

How do orthodontists, dentists, and dental surgeons collaborate in patient care?

Collaboration among dental specialists is not uncommon, especially when a patient’s needs span multiple areas of expertise. Here’s how orthodontists, dentists, and dental surgeons may work together to provide comprehensive care:

  • Orthodontist and dentist: Orthodontic treatment often precedes or follows general dental care. Dentists and orthodontists may collaborate to ensure that the patient’s teeth and gums are healthy before starting orthodontic treatment. After treatment, the patient returns to the dentist for ongoing oral care.
  • Dentist and dental surgeon: When a dentist identifies a complex issue that requires oral surgery, they will refer the patient to a dental surgeon. After the surgical procedure, the patient usually returns to the dentist for follow-up care and any necessary restorative work.
  • Orthodontist, dentist, and dental surgeon: In some cases, all three specialists may be involved in a patient’s care. For example, a patient with a severe malocclusion may first see an orthodontist for braces, followed by oral surgery performed by a dental surgeon to correct the jaw alignment. Subsequent follow-up care and maintenance are then provided by the dentist.

This collaborative approach ensures that patients receive the best possible care by tapping into the expertise of each specialist.

What are the common misconceptions about these dental specialists?

Before we conclude, let’s address some common misconceptions about orthodontists, dentists, and dental surgeons:

Misconception Reality
1 Orthodontic treatment is only for children. While many orthodontic patients are teenagers, adults can benefit from orthodontic treatment as well. It’s never too late to achieve a straighter, healthier smile.
2 Dentists can perform all types of dental procedures. While dentists provide a wide range of dental services, they may refer patients to specialists when complex or surgical procedures are required. Dental surgeons, for example, have specialised training for surgical interventions.
3 Dental surgeons only do tooth extractions. Dental surgeons are highly skilled in various surgical procedures, including dental implant placement, orthognathic surgery, facial trauma repair, and reconstructive surgery.
4 Routine dental check-ups are optional. Regular check-ups are essential for maintaining good oral health and catching dental issues early when they are easier and less expensive to treat. It is recommended to visit a dentist every 6 months.
5 Orthodontic treatment is purely cosmetic. While orthodontic treatment can enhance your smile’s appearance, it also plays a significant role in improving oral function, such as bite alignment and speech. Check out our guide on “Straight Teeth: Why Is It Important? to understand the importance of straight teeth!

Navigating the world of orthodontists, dentists, and dental surgeons

Orthodontists, dentists, and dental surgeons each play crucial roles in the world of dental care. Understanding their services, costs, and specialties can help you make informed decisions about your dental health. Remember that routine check-ups with a dentist are the foundation of good oral hygiene, while orthodontists and dental surgeons step in when specific issues or surgical interventions are needed. By working together, these specialists ensure that patients receive the best possible care, whether it’s achieving a straighter smile, maintaining oral health, or addressing complex dental and facial concerns. Still not sure who to look for regarding your teeth? Book a dental consultation at our clinic to get professional guidance from our friendly dental team.


Which dental specialist should you choose for routine dental check-ups?

For routine dental check-ups, teeth cleaning, and preventive care, dentists are your best bet. These visits are essential for maintaining oral health, preventing dental issues, and catching problems early. Dentists can also provide guidance on oral hygiene and diet to promote healthy teeth and gums.

However, it’s worth noting that some orthodontists offer routine check-ups as well. If you or your child is undergoing orthodontic treatment, your orthodontist may include regular check-ups as part of the treatment plan.

Is orthodontic treatment necessary for adults?

Orthodontic treatment is not limited to children and teenagers. Many adults seek orthodontic care to address issues like misaligned teeth, bite problems, and jaw irregularities. Straightening teeth and improving bite alignment can have both cosmetic and functional benefits, so it’s worth considering orthodontic treatment at any age.

Tip: Check out our blog post here to understand the importance of straight teeth!

Are there alternatives to traditional braces offered by orthodontists?

Invisalign dental alternative braces

Yes, there are alternatives to traditional metal braces. Orthodontists often offer clear aligner systems like Invisalign, which use a series of transparent trays to gradually move teeth into their correct positions. These aligners are discreet and removable, making them a popular choice for both teenagers and adults seeking orthodontic treatment.

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