Should you choose a dentist or an orthodontist?

Par Dr. Normand Bach 01/03/2018

Would you trust your general practitioner to perform open heart surgery? The answer is obvious! The vast majority of people visit their family doctor frequently and know how to tell the difference between a general practitioner and a specialist. However, we don’t always know how to choose between a general practitioner and a specialist in every area, for example, whether to choose a dentist or an orthodontist. Isn’t a dentist capable of managing all of our dental problems? Some of you may think so, but you better think again! Here are a few facts to help you make a clearer distinction.


Your regular dentist is the equivalent of your family doctor. You’ll visit your dentist for regular checkups to assess the general condition of your teeth and your oral health, to have a cavity filled, to have missing teeth replaced, etc. Aside from these routine treatments, here are some other types of procedures a dentist can perform:

  • Root canals
  • Inlays and onlays (used in the case of large-scale cavities)
  • Dental implants
  • Bridges and crowns
  • Partial plates and full dentures (to replace missing teeth)


An orthodontist, on the other hand, specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of misaligned teeth (malocclusions). In addition to the studies pursued by a dentist, an orthodontist must successfully complete a two- to three-year full-time orthodontic residency program approved by the Ordre des dentistes du Québec, the association that represents all of the dentists in Quebec. Orthodontists must also take continuing education courses throughout their career in order to keep up to date with all the new technologies that are constantly being implemented.

To help you make an informed choice, here are a few questions to ask yourself regarding the practitioner you intend to consult for orthodontic treatment:

  • 1. Is he or she a member of a professional association, like the Canadian Association of Orthodontists
  • 2. Did he or she receive specialized training in orthodontics full-time for two to three years and not simply evening or weekend classes?
  • 3. How many years of experience does he or she have?
  • 4. What degrees and other certifications does he or she have?
  • 5. Has he or she treated cases similar to mine?
  • 6. What kind of equipment does he or she use?

In a nutshell, an orthodontist is an expert in orthodontic treatment technologies and is the only specialist who’s qualified to straighten your teeth, to align your jaw or to decide what kind of treatment is most suitable for you. Make an informed decision. Don’t hire a plumber to install your beautiful tile floor!

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