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Orthodontist vs Dentist vs Dental Surgeon - What is the difference?

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    The health of your teeth and mouth is as vital as the health of your overall body. In fact, even mild dental problems can become serious, if neglected and affect the rest of your body. As a rule of thumb, you must see a dentist every six months to keep on track of your oral health. And yes, you have probably heard that millions of times, but this is the only way to catch the problem before it becomes more serious.

    So far so good, but do you know when you should see an orthodontist? Or when you need an oral surgeon, not just a dentist? Here we will explain to you what is the difference between a dentist, an orthodontist and a dental surgeon. As a bonus, we will give you some tips on how to find a good oral health care provider in Singapore. So, please have a look at the lines below.

    What is the difference between a dentist, an orthodontist, and a dental surgeon?

    There are a few key differences between an oral surgeon, a dentist and an orthodontist and these include the education and services they provide. Each of the providers specializes in particular aspects of dentistry and each plays a specific role in maintaining optimal dental health.

    Generally, all of these doctors, dental surgeons, dentists and orthodontists, must first complete an undergraduate degree and dental school. So they basically get the same education initially. General dentists can start practising dentistry after graduating from dental school. Orthodontists and oral surgeons, on the other hand, need additional schooling in order to specialize in a specific dental specialty.

    General dentists offer a broad range of services and are able to deal with various oral health issues including tooth decay, gum disease, sensitive teeth and so on. Dental surgeons typically perform more complex procedures such as wisdom tooth extraction, dental implant surgery, jaw realignment surgery and so on. Orthodontists are dental professionals who mainly focus on diagnosing and treating problems with jaw and tooth alignment. Generally, these doctors are the best ones to consult for orthodontic treatment.

    What does a general dentist do?

    General dentist

    A general dentist is one of the most common types of dentists that you can encounter. They are typically the subject matter experts of restorative dentistry and provide a wide range of services. The general dentist is the doctor you see every six months for your regular checkups and your routine cleanings as well as the first one you go to if you have a dental problem.

    What else the dentists cover is to:

    • perform a thorough examination and take X-rays
    • treat cavities/ tooth decay by doing fillings
    • treat inflammation of the gums or gum disease
    • make crowns and veneers
    • perform a root canal treatment
    • do teeth whitening
    • do full mouth rehabilitation
    • examine and treat children
    • educate patients and help them to improve their overall oral health
    • do limited orthodontic treatments (not all dentists do so)
    • perform simple tooth extraction such as third molars.

    General dentists provide effective treatment options for various teeth and gums problems. They can restore teeth to their intended function and appearance.

    Educational requirements and training for dentists

    Every dentist, including those who are going to specialize in a particular dental speciality, must first complete dental school which takes 4 years. Upon graduation, the dentist receives either a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree.

    Generally speaking, DMD and DDS are the same degrees and which one the dentist will get depends on the university. After graduating from dental school, dental students can pursue practical experiences as a dentist.

    Now, it is important to note here that a Doctor of Dental Surgery and a dental surgeon (oral and maxillofacial surgeon) are two different positions. Only a dental professional who has completed the required training can hold the title of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

    Later in this article, we will look at the educational requirements and responsibilities of dental surgeons.

    What does an orthodontist do?

    Orthodontist fixing girl’s dental braces

    An orthodontist is a dental professional who helps keep your teeth healthy and upright to maintain normal function. In general, orthodontists and dentists share many things in common. Both of them contribute to improving oral health, but in different ways. Orthodontists specialize in tooth and jaw alignment while dentists mainly carry on restorative dental procedures. However, oftentimes dentists and orthodontists work hand in hand to ensure optimal oral health and proper alignment of teeth and jaws.

    Typically orthodontists offer the following oral care:

    • identify problems related to misaligned teeth and bite
    • treat problems like tooth crowding, jaw misalignments and others
    • create a detailed orthodontic treatment plan based on the patient's dental needs
    • install braces, clear aligners, retainers and other orthodontic treatment devices
    • conduct teeth straightening surgery
    • treat an early loss of the baby teeth
    • detect and treat childhood facial growth and dental development disorders.

    The orthodontist is typically one of the best and most qualified dental providers to carry out braces treatment. They are responsible for making sure not only that you have a nice smile but you also have a functional bite, you can chew well and your jaw is in a healthy, stable position.

    Educational requirements and training for orthodontists

    An orthodontist is a dentist who undertook further training in order to be able to diagnose and provide efficiant treatment options for teeth and jaw misalignments. So the orthodontists first need to become qualified dentists, which means completing 4 years of dental school.

    After completing general dentistry education they must pursue a specialization. They need to attend an orthodontic residency program which usually takes 3 years. During this additional training, they have the opportunity to treat patients under the supervision of specialists.

    Orthodontists can start practising their job after receiving board certification in orthodontics.

    What does a dental surgeon do?

    Dental surgeon and assistant work putting dental implant

    A dental surgeon or oral and maxillofacial surgeon is an oral healthcare provider who has special training in performing oral surgeries. Dental surgeons are most often associated with procedures like tooth extractions and implant surgeries, however, their expertise goes far beyond that. They offer treatment options for various dental and medical conditions affecting the face, mouth and jaw.

    Dental surgeons provide the following oral care services:

    • wisdom tooth extraction
    • dental implants treatment
    • oral-facial trauma
    • cancer removal
    • bone grafting
    • facial cosmetics
    • reconstructive surgery
    • temporomandibular disorders treatment.

    Oral surgeons usually perform complex oral and maxillofacial surgeries. Most dentists refer patients to a dental surgeon when a wisdom tooth needs to be removed. At our Bedok and Geylang dental clinic we can do wisdom teeth extractions and removals, feel free to visit for a consultation.

    Educational requirements and training for dental surgeons

    Just like an orthodontist and a dentist, a dental surgeon should attend dental school first. After successfully getting a general dental degree and becoming a fully certified dentist, the oral surgeon has to complete additional education in oral and maxillofacial surgery residency.

    The residency training program may take 4 years or 6 if a medical degree is acquired. The majority of oral and maxillofacial surgeons have both dental and medical degrees so that they are able to perform more complex treatment techniques.

    Orthodontist vs. dentist vs. dental surgeon: Who should you see?

    Dental surgeons, dentists and orthodontists are all considered doctors and all provide services related to improving the health of the teeth, gums and mouth. Which one you should see usually depends on your problem and its severity.

    A general dentist is able to deal with all standard dental issues including tooth pain, tooth fracture, tooth decay and cavities, gum disease and others. So if you experience any of these problems you defiantly should arrange a trip to your dentist.

    When it comes to dental issues, such as correcting bites and straightening teeth, then it is best to schedule an appointment with an orthodontist. Such a specialist is able to deal with improperly positioned teeth including crowded and crooked teeth or gaps between teeth. In addition, orthodontists specialise in treating jaw issues such as overbite, underbite, crossbite, open bite, etc.

    The orthodontist is best suited to move your teeth into their correct position and care for your upright smile. Although some dentists may provide orthodontic care and be able to shift your teeth into proper alignment, you should keep in mind that they do not have the same level of training and experience as orthodontists have.

    If your dental problem is more complex and requires surgical treatment then your dentist will refer you to a dental surgeon. The oral specialists have more extensive training and experience in performing procedures like dental implant surgery, bone grafting, wisdom tooth removal, facial trauma surgery and so on.

    How to find a good oral health care provider in Singapore?

    person doing an nline search for dentist near them

    Are you looking for a great dentist or dental surgeon in your local community? Or maybe you want to find the best orthodontist near you that will help you achieve the straighter teeth and smile you have always wanted?

    Here are some of the most convenient and easiest ways to find a reliable oral health care provider.

    • Word of mouth. This means talking to your friends, family, and relatives in your community that are already there and have an established provider they go see every so often. They are able to give you the most truthful opinion of that doctor.
    • "Ask" local online communities. Go to local Facebook groups or other local groups where you can ask questions about a particular dental office and oral health specialist. If you want to undergo orthodontic treatment, for example, you may seek recommendations for good orthodontists in your area. However, you should keep in mind that some of these local groups might not be as honest as you may think.
    • Review sites. Review sites like Yelp and Google can give you a good indication of what a community thinks about a certain dental practice. You can scroll to the reviews, read a lot of comments and get a good sense of how good is the doctor.
    • Insurance. Dentistry is typically expensive, especially when it comes to orthodontic treatments. That is why it is good to find a provider that will accept your insurance. You can pick a few dental practices by using the methods above and then call each of them and ask about the insurance policies they accept.

    No matter what kind of provider you are looking for, a dentist, or a dental specialist like an orthodontist or a dental surgeon, it is important to find one you can trust, who is honest, who pays attention to you and respects your time. If you're near Kembangan Plaza in Bedok or Geylang, feel free to give us a call and our experienced dentists will assist you with any of your dental care needs.

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