Dentists take care of many general oral health issues including x-rays and examining teeth to assess their soundness and health, cleaning teeth, and filling cavities caused by tooth decay. In this way, they’re similar to your primary care doctor, except that their focus is on your overall oral health. But even though a dentist can diagnose many different oral issues, that doesn’t mean she’s qualified to treat all of the them.
Just as your primary care physician will refer you to a specialist when a more complex health issue is detected, most dentists will also refer their patients to specialists when an oral health issue that is beyond the scope of their expertise and training. Dr. Almy of Fredericksburg Orthodontics and Invisalign Center is such a specialist.
To become a dentist, an individual must complete four years of dental school to earn a degree as a DDS (doctor of dental surgery) or DDM (doctor of dental medicine), and must be licensed in the state in which they practice their craft.
An orthodontist also completes a four year general dentistry program, but then continues his or her training for an additional minimum of two years of specialized study in orthodontics. To be clear, dental school is a postgraduate course of study, so the total time spent in college is 8 years for dentists and 10 years for orthodontists.
The extra training enables an orthodontist to extend her abilities beyond that of general dentistry into the highly specialized area of jaw and teeth alignment, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of facial and dental irregularities, and the ability to recognize and prescribe the best course of treatment for problems like overcrowding, gaps, overbites, underbites, crossbites and more.
After 10 years of secondary education, an orthodontist is qualified to practice but may choose to obtain board certification through the American Board of Orthodontics. If board certification is pursued, the orthodontist is required to complete and pass both a written and a clinical examination in order to prove their competency. Dr. Almy of Fredericksburg Orthodontics & Invisalign Center is board certified and maintains her certification through continuing education.
Most people are familiar with the traditional metal braces that you typically see on middle-school aged children. They’re still in use and still effective for orthodontic problems, but today there are many more options available as well. Traditional braces are now available in clear styles, as are tooth aligners such as Invisalign. Different treatments apply in different cases, so even though you may prefer the idea of removable aligners, for example, they may not be suited to your particular orthodontic issues.
What if Your Dentist Offers to Tackle Your Orthodontic Problems?
Some dentists will attend seminars to be certified to offer rudimentary orthodontic services in their general practices. However, these seminars are a far cry from the years of extra training received by an orthodontist, so the seminar-trained dentist’s knowledge about straightening teeth and dealing with other orthodontic problems will be far less extensive. Think of it this way: A medic in a battle setting may be able to provide basic medical care, but there are times when this care simply won’t be enough to “fix” a soldier’s wounds. The best solution is to send the soldier on to a facility with trained surgeons and the proper equipment to properly treat his issues. The same is true when it comes to orthodontic care. Unless the problem is extremely minor, it’s best to request a referral to a certified orthodontist for treatment!
Consider this interesting fact pointed out by the American Association of Orthodontists: All orthodontists are dentists, but only about 6 percent of dentists also possess a degree in orthodontics!
When you visit Fredericksburg Orthodontics and Invisalign Center for your jaw or alignment problems, you’re ensuring that you’ll receive the best care available as well as the best possible outcome! Dr. Diana Almy, a board certified orthodontist, and her team are ready to help you start your journey to a beautiful, healthy new smile! For a complimentary consultation, contact us at 540-898-7211.