The Difference Between an Orthodontist and a Dentist

The ways in which orthodontists and dentists work to improve the oral health of their patients are very different. Dentists are medical specialists who operate in a broad capacity, dealing with a myriad of issues surrounding the teeth, gums, nerves, and jaws. Orthodontists, on the other hand, are trained in a more limited capacity. Orthodontists receive much the same background training as dentists, but then they specialize more specifically in the areas of dentistry that deal with the correction of bite issues, occlusion of the teeth, and the straightening of teeth, as well as underlying jaw structure and health. In much the same way that all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares, all orthodontists are dentists, but a general dentist will not have the kind of training in orthodontic care of an orthodontist. Read on to learn more about the differences between an orthodontist and a dentist. 

In what ways are dentists and orthodontists similar?

Dentists and orthodontists are both practitioners who focus on taking care of your oral health. Much of the time, you will find orthodontists working in tandem with general dentists in a shared practice. Both dentists and orthodontists are doctors and both deal with tooth and gum health. 

How are dentists and orthodontists different?

Dentists and orthodontists share many characteristics but are fundamentally different types of doctors. In the same way that a general practitioner is not a cardiologist, dentists and orthodontists vary in the scope of their practice. 

As has already been said, orthodontists are, in fact, dentists. That means they have been to dental school and received a degree in dentistry. However, once an orthodontist like Dr. Levin receives their degree in general dentistry, afterward, they’ll go on to take several more years of advanced schooling in order to become an orthodontist. Your orthodontist specializes in working with patients on the alignment of their teeth, working to improve their bite, as well as fitting them with corrective braces or other appliances, such as Invisalign. Most often, if a dentist has a patient who they diagnose with an issue such as an overbite, they’ll be referred to an orthodontist like Dr. Levin.  

Dentists work to promote overall good oral hygiene and provide services related to:

  • Tooth decay
  • Root canals
  • Gum disease
  • Crowns
  • Bridges
  • Veneers
  • Teeth whitening

Orthodontists like Dr. Levin are dentists that specialize in the alignment of teeth and provide services related to:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Crowded teeth
  • Overbite
  • Underbite

What an orthodontist can help with

Your orthodontist works to straighten your teeth, but they also work with patients on a variety of other issues relating to a bite. Dr. Levin and other orthodontists work on bite problems such as the following:

 Common Bite Problems


In the case of an overbite, the upper front teeth overlap or cover part of the lower front teeth. This can lead to excessive wear and tear of the teeth, particularly the incisors (the two front teeth). Another concern with an overbite is the possibility of damage to the gum tissue leading to excessive gingival display (that’s a gummy smile to the rest of us). 

Most often, traditional or clear braces or even aligners such as Invisalign can correct the issues leading to an overbite. 


Also known as an anterior crossbite, this is where the lower jaw sits out in front of the upper jaw. When uncorrected, underbites can lead to excessive stress and pressure on the joints of the jaw and face. That means tension headaches, tooth grinding, and temporomandibular disorders, or TMJ. 

Underbites typically require more aggressive treatment than would be the case for the more common mild overbites. In more severe cases of underbite, Dr. Levin may refer you to an oral or maxillofacial surgeon with whom they’ll work closely to reshape the jaw to develop a proper bite.


Refers to a misalignment of either the teeth, jaws or both, in which upper teeth sit inside lower teeth. This often becomes worse over time and can lead to issues with properly chewing food. The sooner this is detected, the better. 

Open Bite

In another case where early detection can save a heap of trouble, an open bite may lead to swallowing and airway issues! This is the case for both anterior and posterior open bites. 

With an anterior open bite, the upper and lower teeth never meet or overlap when the back teeth are together, causing a visible gap in the space, leading to the name. A posterior open bite is similar, but the front and side teeth will close properly, but a gap forms in the back teeth. 


One of the most common orthodontic issues, crowding, can cause self-esteem issues due to a lack of confidence in your smile, but there are more functional concerns as well. Crowding can lead to difficulty maintaining proper dental hygiene. This can cause an increase in cavities and gum disease, such as gingivitis. 


The opposite of crowding is spacing. As the name suggests, there is just too much space between teeth. All that extra space is ideal for the formation of harmful plaque and bacteria, so just like crowding, this can lead to issues of gum disease and other oral hazards that go along with having difficulty maintaining proper dental hygiene. 

Dental Midlines

Often a result of early loss of baby teeth or missing permanents, dental midline issues result from your upper and lower incisors not aligning symmetrically.

The Difference Between an Orthodontist and a DentistHave more questions? Call today! 

Here at Levin Orthodontics of Sandy Springs and Marietta, we’re proud to deliver cutting-edge orthodontic care to our patients in and around Sandy Springs, Chastain, Buckhead, East Cobb Marietta, and Roswell. No matter where you are, we’re there for you! Consultations are always free, so give us a call, and let’s get started on your smile story today!   

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