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The Difference Between an Orthodontist and a Dentist

iDentity-Ortho-Grayslake (21)You or your children may have been going to the same dentist for years, but now he says it’s time for braces and is referring you to an orthodontist. You wonder why your dentist can’t straighten your teeth, and you want to know what the difference is between a dentist versus an orthodontist.

In general, a dentist can provide some of the following services:

  • Routine fillings and tooth extraction
  • Crowns and root canals
  • Teeth whitening
  • Tooth implants
  • Bridges
  • Veneers
  • Gum disease and oral cancer detection


An orthodontist will provide treatment for the following, and more:

  • Occlusions of all kinds
  • Crooked teeth
  • Improperly aligned teeth
  • Temporomandibular Disorder
  • Underbite and Overbite


Although dentists and orthodontists both provide exceptional care for good oral health, there are important differences. In fact, there are many differences between a dentist and an orthodontist, but not so much between an orthodontist and a dentist. This means that an orthodontist, such as Michael Stosich, D.M.D, M.S., M.S., at Stosich Consulting, is first a general dentist who completed four years of dental school and then was accepted to and completed an ADA accredited orthodontic specialty residency program making him an Orthodontic Specialist. Just as a general dentist is better trained to perform fillings and crowns, an orthodontist specializes in the care of tooth alignment and bite correction. Working together great results can be achieved. For example: This is akin to your family doctor and your dermatologist; both are doctors, but one is a specialist.

Although a dentist will care for your teeth as your primary care dentist, Dr. Stosich will make sure your teeth and bite are perfect which will make the dentist’s job a bit easier and your smile more beautiful. When your teeth are straight, this makes it easier for you, and your dentist, to care for them for the rest of your life.

Other distinguishing characteristics to note between a dentist and an orthodontist is that sometimes it can be difficult to tell if a dentist is an actual orthodontic specialist as some dentists perform some orthodontic procedures. Here is an easy way to tell the difference between a primary care dentist and an orthodontic specialist: Start by asking a few questions like:

1) Did you go to a full time, accredited residency or a weekend course
2) How many cases like mine have you treated
3) Have you ever had a case in aligners or braces that went wrong to the point that you had to ask an orthodontist for help
4) Have you or any of your family members been treated by an orthodontic specialist?

The point is that you will never know the answers to these questions if you do not ask them; moreover, you can’t get answers if your doctor does not have good communication skills or does not consider your questions as being important or beneficial to your treatment.

These are some other questions you should ask your orthodontist:

5) Do they plan care?
6) Do they measure their results?
7) Do they practice evidenced based orthodontics?

Dr. Stosich prides himself in perfecting smiles and this is what drives him toward building a great reputation as being a pioneer in precision orthodontics in Kenilworth and Grayslake. As one who bases his practice upon educating his patients for a better outcome, he welcomes the opportunity to explain to you the differences between a dentist and an orthodontist.

Dentist Orthodontist
Four Years of Dental School Yes Yes
ADA Accredited Orthodontic Specialty Residency No Yes
Teeth Alignment and Bite Correction No Yes
General Dentistry Treatments such as Fillings, Check-ups and Tooth Extraction Yes No
Dental Braces, Retainers and Invisalign No Yes
Cosmetic Dentistry Treatments such as Veneers, Bleaching Yes No


  • Michael S. Stosich, DMD, MS, MS

    Dr. Michael Stosich is a board-certified orthodontist and the director of orthodontics at the University of Chicago Medicine. He is known for his extensive experience in leading clinical enterprises, publishing, and lecturing both in the U.S. and internationally. Dr. Stosich has expertise in starting, growing, and maintaining successful orthodontic practices, including those in pediatric dentistry, general dentistry, and multi-specialty clinics. He serves on the editorial board of several publications and has been involved in innovating patient care and education, focusing on the future of dental and orthodontic healthcare.

Stosich Consulting