The difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist

Although some people think dentists and orthodontists are the same thing as each other, there are a few differences, so I have a series of articles here to outline them.

In the first one, we looked at how orthodontics is a specialty within dentistry, and in the second, we outlined the different special areas within dentistry and the different areas within orthodontics. The third and fourth articles covered the law and the regulations concerning dentistry and orthodontics and how the terms can be used.For further information regarding this,more info here.

In its current form, the standard dental degree has a name like Bachelor of Dental Surgery (or Dental Science) and an abbreviation of BDS or similar. This is usually awarded after 5 years of full time study at a dental school in a university.

Unlike many other university courses, the dental degree’s full time study is very structured and based on a conventional working day where the dental student is treating patients in a teaching clinic, or making prosthetic (artificial) teeth for patients in a laboratory, as well as attending lectures and tutorials and carrying out any research, reading, revision.

As covered in a previous article in the series, a dental degree alone does not allow someone to practice dentistry – that depends on whether a person’s name is on the dental register for that country. But usually, a dental degree in a particular country will allow the graduate to be registered to practice dentistry there because the organisation that oversees the register, and administers the regulations for dentistry, will regularly review the dental schools that award dental degrees to ensure that they are training dentists to a high enough standard.

The standard dental course will include some teaching of orthodontics, but specialising in orthodontics involves post graduate study – more studying after an initial dental degree. Also, to become a specialist in orthodontics, to be able to describe yourself as an orthodontist when dealing with the public, then a dentist must also be registered in the list of specialist orthodontists and being included on this list will depend on completing a course of postgraduate study and passing a series of examinations that satisfies the dental council that compiles the list.

At present the post graduate course for orthodontics approved by the dental councils would typically involve a combination of research, lectures, tutorials and clinical practice (exclusively in orthodontics) amounting to about 3 years of full time activity at a dental school or post graduate dental institute attached to a university.

It would be usual to graduate with a Master’s degree in Orthodontics along the way, with title like Master of Science or Dental Science (MSc or MDentSci) or similar. A Master’s degree (or even a PhD) alone wouldn’t entitle a person to be on the specialist register, as it usually only occupies part of the orthodontic course. The principal exams that determine inclusion on the register aren’t actually organised by a university, but by one of the Surgical Colleges – there are 3 of these in the UK and 1 in Ireland. They conduct a rigorous series of exams and the successful student receives a Membership in Orthodontics (MOrth), which would entitle them to go on the specialist register of orthodontists.

If the orthodontist did their post graduate training in another country, they may not have that particular qualification, but they would have to satisfy their dental council that what exams they did pass were of an equivalent standard – or higher. There are also many orthodontists practising with an older qualification with the abbreviation DOrth, but this has largely been phased out as the standard post grad qualification by the MOrth.