Orthodontist vs Dentist

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 15, 2022  •  6 min read  •  Health
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If you want to go into a career in the dental industry, you can become an orthodontist or dentist. Both of these dental professionals can be very rewarding. However, they are not the same thing.

Learning the differences between an orthodontist and a dentist can help you make your career decision. Let’s look at what both of these careers are and the differences between the two.

Orthodontist vs Dentist

What is an Orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a specialized dental professional. If you go into this career, you will specialize in moving teeth and alighting the jaw. Commonly, orthodontists will treat gaps between teeth, a jaw that isn’t aligned properly, crowded teeth, and teeth that stick out.

Orthodontists will use many different tools to correct issues with teeth and the jaw. They may use braces, clear aligners, or lingual braces. X-rays will be used, along with pictures of the teeth to create a customized treatment plan for each patient.

Common Job Duties of an Orthodontist

If you become an orthodontist, you will likely perform the following job duties:

These job duties are common to an orthodontist.

What is a Dentist?

A dentist is a professional that treats the overall oral health of a patient. They take care of regular checkups, mild gum disease, cavities, and other oral hygiene problems. Dentists can also extract teeth and help to improve the appearance of teeth.

If you become a dentist, you may apply bonding, crowns, or veneers to repair chipped, decaying, misshapen, or broken teeth. Dentists can also look for oral diseases and provide advice to help patients maintain oral health.

Common Job Duties of a Dentist

When you decide to become a dentist, you will provide the following job duties:

Dentists may perform different job duties every day. Some are commonly provided, but others may be a bit less common.

Orthodontist vs Dentist: The Differences

Both orthodontists and dentists help to evaluate and treat oral health issues. However, there are several differences between both career options. Let’s look at some of the key differences below.

Scope of Practice

Orthodontists and dentists don’t do the same thing. They both work in the dental industry, but an orthodontist will take care of more specific issues compared to a dentist.

As a dentist, you will help patients with a routine dental care plan. You will perform services, such as dental cleaning, diagnostics, X-rays, and regular checkups. You may also handle root canals, extractions, and other oral health treatments.

If you work as an orthodontist, you will work specifically with the alignment of the teeth, the health of the jaw, and treat any abnormalities in the mouth. You will likely only perform procedures that involve misalignment, teeth abnormalities, or occlusion.

Education Needed

A big difference between an orthodontist and a dentist is the education necessary. If you plan to become an orthodontist, you will need to spend more time in school than a dentist.

Dentists need to complete a dental school education program. You will graduate with a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree. Once you’ve completed this type of education program, you will need to take your certification exams. Passing these exams will allow you to practice dentistry with the proper license.

If you want to become an orthodontist, you will need another two or three years of education. This education will be specialized in orthodontics. It may also be necessary to complete a residency training program to become an orthodontist. An orthodontist may need to earn a dentistry certification and a certification in orthodontics.


While both an exodontist and a dentist can make a very nice living, they don’t have the same salary. If you become a dentist, the average base salary, according to Indeed.com, is about $207K per year. Top companies do pay quite a bit more with top salaries topping the $300K mark.

According to Ziprecruiter.com, an orthodontist will earn an average yearly salary of about $292K per year. The top of the range can be closer to $400K per year for this career.

Orthodontists tend to get paid more than a dentist. However, both of these careers are very high-paying options.

Is it Possible for a Dentist to do Orthodontics?

Many general dentists do offer some simple orthodontic services, such as Invisalign. Clear aligners are a common option with dentists, but most do not offer more complex orthodontics. More complex orthodontic procedures should be referred to an orthodontic specialist, however.

An orthodontist will have more training and education. They will be capable of handling more difficult issues that may require multidisciplinary care, such as prosthodontist and oral surgery.

Choosing the right career isn’t always easy. If you know you want to go into a dental profession, you might consider becoming an orthodontist or dentist. Both are great options, but they are quite different.

You might want to look into the demand for both careers. It’s also important to think about your interests and even speak with an advisor before you make your decision.

Becoming an orthodontist will take more time than becoming a dentist. However, orthodontists tend to make a higher salary. Take the time to do your own research and look into both careers before you make your final decision.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.