Orthodontist vs. General Dentist

If you believe your General Dentist is also an orthodontist, take a minute to read this page.

Your dentist may offer orthodontic services, leading you to assume that he/she is an orthodontist. But the truth is that putting aligners or braces on teeth does not make a General Dentist an Orthodontist.


As knowledgeable and skillful as General Dentists are, certain areas of dentistry have educational programs-beyond dental school. Orthodontics is one of those areas. And that’s where specialists, such as orthodontists, come in.

Orthodontists get to be specialists by completing four years of general dental education in dental school, and then continuing in an accredited program where they study their specific Orthodontic specialty full-time for two or more years. When dentists studying a specialty area successfully complete their formal specialty education, they are able to use a title that denotes their area of specialization. “Orthodontist” is one example.


A dentist may be able to provide braces or aligners to move teeth, but that does not mean the dentist is an orthodontist. While dentists may spend 5% of time using braces and Invisalign, Orthodontists spend 100% of their time treating patients with braces and Invisalign.

So that you can tell the difference between a dental specialist (such as an orthodontist) and a general dentist, be aware of the doctor’s:


  • Dentists and dental specialists graduate from dental school
  • After dental school, a dental specialist goes on to study full-time in an accredited program in their specialty area for two or more years. After graduating, a dental specialist may call himself/herself by a title to denote their specialty training (e.g., orthodontist)

Scope of practice

  • General dentists are licensed to provide general care and, in some states, are allowed to provide specialty care even if they do not have formal post-dental school training in an accredited residency program
  • Specialists usually focus their practice on their dental specialty exclusively

If you’re thinking about orthodontic treatment, consider a specialist: an orthodontist. Only bona fide orthodontists get to be members of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). Visit aaoinfo.org to find your AAO orthodontist.

Content modified by Lunsford McCaffrey Orthodontics, original article from: https://www.aaoinfo.org/blog/is-my-dentist-also-an-orthodontist/