Cooper Orthodontics

Our Blog

Orthodontist or Dentist? When It’s Time For Braces, Who Is Better?

Orthodontist or Dentist?

It’s not unusual for both dentists and orthodontists to have patients question what the difference is between our two professions. Many people incorrectly assume that the two are more or less interchangeable. While there are a number of similarities between general dentistry and orthodontics, there are also a significant number of differences that set them apart.

For someone seeking information on orthodontic treatments, such as braces, it’s important that they understand what an orthodontist like Dr. Cooper can offer them that a general dentist can’t.

If you’ve been wondering whether you or your child might benefit from braces, keep reading to learn more about those differences, and how you can decide whether a dentist or orthodontist is your best bet for orthodontic treatment!

Similarities and differences

Orthodontists and dentists address many of the same dental issues, but differ in the methods of care they provide to patients.

Dentists specialize in problems with the teeth and gums. They deal mostly with general dental problems, like tooth decay and gum disease, and encourage their patients to practice good oral hygiene and get regular cleanings every six months.

Orthodontists are dentists who have gone on to complete a two-year residency program in orthodontics. They deal with more serious dental problems relating to tooth and jaw alignment. The path to becoming an orthodontist involves intensive studying of the jaw, as well as how the teeth move. Orthodontists primarily deal with malocclusions, which are problems with the bite.  Some of the most common issues they treat are:

  • overbite
  • underbite
  • crowded teeth
  • crossbite
  • improperly spaced teeth

There are dentists who specialize in a number of types of oral care. A periodontist, for example, is a specialist who treats the gums and the bones beneath the teeth. You can think of an orthodontist as a dentist who specializes in the alignment of the teeth.

School and training

All orthodontists and dentists will graduate from dental school, but from there, orthodontists take a different path. Once they’ve completed dental school, only the top students in the class will be allowed to continue their education toward a specialty in orthodontics. In fact, acceptance into an orthodontic residency program is an extremely competitive business! Once accepted, orthodontists then undergo an additional two to three years of full-time training that concentrates on orthodontia including braces, bite problems, and straightening teeth. Only after a dentist has successfully completed this residency program are they able to call themselves an orthodontist.

Can a general dentist straighten teeth?

The short answer to this is yes, but it comes with caveats. A general dentist may be able to provide orthodontic care, but this is only permitted if he or she commits to taking continuing education seminars and acquiring extra experience in the subject. This isn’t a perfect system, however, as these workshops and seminars lack the kind of rigorous testing and examinations needed to truly learn such specific material in depth. And where the field of orthodontics is concerned, a more superficial understanding of the subject matter isn’t always enough to correctly provide the best possible treatment for patients.

To sum it all up:

  • Both are dentists who specialize in oral care
  • Orthodontists complete an additional two years of training in orthodontics
  • All orthodontists are dentists, but only about 10% of dentists are orthodontists
  • Dentists will often refer their patients to an orthodontist if there are alignment problems or a bite abnormality

Unlike general dentists, orthodontists focus solely on orthodontic care and treatment. Since this is our only specialty, we devote a lot of time and energy to perfecting it! We often perform teeth straightening procedures daily, make a concentrated effort to keep up to date on the latest industry practices and technology, purchase the latest equipment, and regularly participate in orthodontic classes and workshops. Being an experienced orthodontist means we’re able to offer the best-customized treatment method for each patient we see, whereas general dentists might be more inclined to use a one-size-fits-all approach.

Should you choose a dentist or an orthodontist for braces treatment?

Think of it this way: if you had a heart condition, who would you want to treat you? Your primary care physician? Or a cardiologist? Clearly, a cardiologist would have a good deal more experience where the heart is concerned. This same approach applies to your teeth. Having a general dentist perform specialized orthodontic work is a bit like a general physician performing heart surgery. It can be done, but why would you want to risk it?


The choice of care provider is always up to you as the patient, but it’s important to remember that as orthodontists, we keep our focus solely on orthodontic issues. We’re much more likely to have had a wide range of experience in dealing with specific dental issues. While dentists are great at developing short-term results and treatment plans, orthodontists will invest in long-term care plans for our patients, plans that will see you through your treatment from start to finish!

Meeting your orthodontic needs with Cooper Orthodontics

Here at Cooper Orthodontics, we emphasize optimal treatment approaches and how to avoid complications. We’re trained to notice small issues a dentist might overlook, the kind of issues that could end up costing you time and money, or cause pain should any complication develop. There’s no need to risk your health and finances by seeking treatment from someone with less knowledge, experience, and specialized education. Since our sole specialty is orthodontics, we have the experience and capability to help our patients by giving them the best quality, cost, and efficiency in treatment.

To see this kind of individualized care in action, we offer a complimentary consultation in our conveniently located Houston office. If you’re in Houston or the surrounding areas and are interested in orthodontic treatment like traditional metal braces, Invisalign, Harmony lingual braces, or AcceleDent Aura, give us a call! Our friendly team would love to talk with you about all the ways an experienced orthodontist can positively impact your smile. Investing in orthodontic treatment with Cooper Orthodontics means we’ll invest in a healthier, straighter smile for you!

To All New and Current Patients

Our office will be temporarily closed from Monday, April 15 through Tuesday, April 16, 2024 while we update our practice software. We will re-open on Wednesday, April 17, 2024 and look forward to continuing to provide you with an amazing patient experience.If you need to reach us, please text us or send us a message through your Dental Monitoring app.

Thank you,

The Cooper Orthodontic Team