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Dentist Vs. Orthodontist For Braces

If you’re considering having your teeth straightened, you may be wondering if this is something your dentist can do, or if you’ll need to see an orthodontist. It’s a fair question to ask as most people know they’re not the same but not what sets them apart. While there are similarities, there are also significant differences. When you’re looking into orthodontic treatment such as braces or Invisalign, it’s important to understand what orthodontists like Dr. Mateer have to offer that general dentists don’t. We’ve put together this guide, so you can learn more.


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Let’s start here because orthodontists and dentists both begin their careers by graduating from dental school. However, only those students in the top of their dental class will be accepted into an orthodontics residency program because of its extremely competitive nature. Once accepted, students will undergo an additional two to three years of full-time training concentrating on orthodontia. This includes a focus on braces, bite problems, and straightening teeth. Most general dentists will not have this kind of rigorous supplementary training, although there are few who do. Only after a dentist has successfully completed this residency program may they refer to themselves as an orthodontist. To put it simply, orthodontists are essentially dentists who have specialized, additional training in orthodontics.

Dr. Scott Mateer completed his undergraduate studies at Marist College, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. He attended Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine, where he graduated at the top of his class. Upon completion of his dental degree he then attended Montefiore Medical Center where he received his specialty certificate in Orthodontics. Here he underwent extensive training in Orthodontics on patients of all ages using the most state-of-the-art techniques.


While both professionals work in the field of oral care, the difference between an orthodontist and dentist comes down to a matter of specialty.

Dentists address general dental problems like tooth decay and gum disease, so it could be said that they specialize in issues with the teeth and gums. Dentists focus on maintaining their patients’ good oral hygiene and perform regular cleanings every six months.  There are dentists who specialize in a particular type of oral care. For example, a periodontist is a specialist who treats the gums and the bones beneath the teeth.

Orthodontists are dentists who have decided to expand their education by specializing in the alignment of teeth. They spend a lot time studying the jaw and the movement of teeth, and then address dental issues with tooth and jaw alignment. They deal most often with issues regarding bite, called malocclusions. Some of the most common problems they treat are:

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


The short answer is, yes, they can. In fact, a dentist who did not complete an orthodontics residency program may have the knowledge to do so through qualified seminars. However, he or she may not have the skill level because, unfortunately, many workshops lack the kind of rigorous examinations and testing that would truly gauge if the material was mastered. As a result, a dentist on this path may offer cookie cutter services that treat each patient’s issues the same.


Ideally, dentists and orthodontists should work together to provide exceptional care. Generally speaking, dentists are the experts at keeping your teeth healthy while orthodontists are the experts on jaw issues and teeth alignment. In fact dentists often refer their patients to an orthodontist if there are alignment problems or a bite abnormality.

That being said, the choice of a treatment provider always belongs to the patient, though, it is worth remembering that an orthodontist will be focused solely on orthodontic issues. Some general dentists will have a fair amount of orthodontic experience; however, the best way to ensure that you’re getting the optimal care you deserve is by receiving treatment from someone who specializes in what you need. It carries the least risk, and you are assured that your orthodontist is well versed in all the new treatments, as well as the older ones that might be a good fit for you.

Orthodontists have the experience and training to deal with whatever issue may arise. Additionally, orthodontists focus on long-term care plans that are individualized for each patient’s unique needs. These plans ensure you finish the process with the healthiest smile possible and are able to retain it for a lifetime.


Here’s what we learned:

  • Dentists and orthodontists both specialize in oral care.
  • All orthodontists are dentists; however, only about 10% of dentists are orthodontists.
  • Orthodontists complete an additional two or three years of training in a competitive orthodontics residency program.
  • Orthodontists focus exclusively on orthodontic care and treatment.

Orthodontists perform teeth straightening procedures daily and stay up to date on all the latest best practices and technology, invest in the newest equipment, and are frequent participants and leaders in orthodontic classes, seminars, and workshops.

Because we specialize in one thing, we can offer the very best customized treatment to each and every patient. General dentists might be more inclined to use a one-size-fits-all approach.


doctor talking to a patient

Dr. Mateer and Staff believe that establishing a relationship with each patient and family is an integral part of orthodontic treatment. We are also committed to continuing education and state-of- the-art orthodontic treatment. Mateer Orthodontics services patients all over Suffolk County including Commack, East Northport, Dix Hills and surrounding areas. It is our privilege to be part of your life-changing journey to a beautiful smile!  Please contact our office to schedule a complimentary consultation. We look forward to seeing you soon!