The Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist

At Clauss Orthodontics, we want our patients to receive the best treatment possible for their dental needs. Our team believes understanding the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist is a significant first step in knowing which professional to turn to that can best help you achieve your smile goals. Whether you seek treatment for yourself or a loved one, let us guide you through your first steps!

What Does A Dentist Do?

Focused on helping you maintain your general oral health, dentists regularly offer bi-annual teeth cleanings and keep a lookout for any developing dental diseases. They help provide an excellent base to care for your teeth through education on proper brushing and flossing techniques, dietary choices that impact oral health, and keeping a healthy-looking smile. They are a logical place to start if you encounter an issue you need clarification on.

Dentists can start to see patients for an initial examination during their infant year to ensure the child’s teeth and gums are off to a healthy start. They treat patients of all ages throughout their lives to provide preventative care, typically acting as the first eyes on any issues with your oral health.

Treatment Offered

Dentists can offer patients many treatment solutions by providing care for issues such as cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, and worn-down teeth. To remedy a cavity, they can provide you with a filling or a root canal to get rid of the infected portion of the tooth. Dentists also offer crowns to protect worn-down teeth, fillings to restore teeth to their former state, teeth whitening treatment and bridges or implants to replace missing teeth. 

They provide many treatment options for patients, with routine dental cleaning and examination being the most common. Your dental cleaning is when a dentist or hygienist cleans plaque and tartar build-up, checks for any developing issues such as decay or existing dental work that may need some attention and can be on the lookout for any issues to ensure your overall dental health. Should they notice any existing or developing bite or alignment issues, a referral to an orthodontic specialist would be warranted.

What Does An Orthodontist Do?

Working in a specialized field of dentistry, orthodontists like Dr. Clauss are your dedicated experts in achieving proper jaw and tooth alignment to ensure your smile looks its best and functions flawlessly. They focus on diagnosing each patient’s concerns, creating personalized treatment plans, and how to effectively align teeth to the correct position. 

An orthodontist, like Dr. Clauss, must first become fully trained as a general dentist, then attend three more years of specialty training in tooth movement and bite/jaw alignment. These three years of additional specialized training allow Dr. Clauss the expertise to deal with all of the different aspects of tooth movement and to address any issues that may arise during treatment.   

Though braces and other orthodontic appliances are typically associated with teenage years, orthodontic treatment can begin anytime in your adult life and prove equally helpful. Clauss Orthodontics encourages adult patients to seek help to reap the lifetime benefits you can enjoy from a straightened smile. 

Treatment Offered

Metal braces, clear ceramic braces, and Invisalign, all of which are offered at Clauss Orthodontics, can help achieve the tooth alignment results you are after. Each appliance varies in aesthetics and how treatment is administered, yet achieves the same excellent results. 

If searching for tried-and-true success without worrying about appearance, metal braces could be an excellent option. Invisalign may be the perfect choice for a subtle look with reliable results. If you are after a hybrid between the two, clear ceramic braces are also worth considering!

Early Interceptive Care

We also offer early treatment when your child may still have baby teeth but needs assistance with alignment or expansion before permanent teeth grow in. This interceptive care can help your child fix oral issues early in life before they become more severe and necessitate more complex procedures in the future. It can also make orthodontic treatment a more comfortable experience.

Specialized orthodontic training is required to properly plan and administer orthodontic treatment while maintaining high-quality care. Dr. Clauss can help you meet your smile goals and will work with you throughout the entire process to ensure you are confident with your treatment outcome.

The Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist

How Their Training Compares


Completing four years of undergraduate schooling and another four years of dental school, dentists earn either a Doctor of Dental Medicine or a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. Here, they master the basics of general oral health, its overall effects on the body, preventative care, and how to effectively treat patients of all ages. For general dentists, this is where official training comes to an end.


Orthodontists must first become fully trained dentists. They not only complete dental school but then go on to train in an orthodontic residency. This unique training lasts three years, splitting their time between lectures and hands-on instruction. Distinguishing themselves from other oral healthcare professionals, orthodontists finish their training with the confidence and expertise to tackle even the most complex orthodontic cases.

So, Which Should You Call?

Dentists act as your first line of defense, likely seeing your teeth often enough to notice any standard oral issues. If the complication can be solved without altering the alignment of your teeth, such as cavities, teeth whitening, implants or crowns, then your dentist is the provider you want to see. However, should an issue arise that requires tooth or jaw realignment, such as crowded teeth or an improper bite, you can be sure to get the best care from a trained orthodontic specialist.

The Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist

Unlock Your Best Smile Today!

Understanding the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist is vital in helping you make efficient and informed decisions on which oral healthcare provider to contact for specific oral issues. Our team at Clauss Orthodontics is proud to serve the Watertown and Middlebury communities, providing the special orthodontic services you need! If you have any questions about your teeth or the treatment we offer, feel free to call us at 860-274-6625 to schedule your free consultation so we can help you along your smile journey.