Grand Rapids Orthodontist vs Grand Rapids Dentist. What’s the Difference?

It’s pretty a common to question – what is the real difference between an orthodontist and dentist? Both help patients maintain and improve their oral health, but both practitioners do so uniquely. As dentists in Grand Rapids practice dentistry broadly, helping with issues regarding teeth, gums and the jaw, an orthodontist specializes in occlusion, straightening and bite correction.

Before you decide to book an appointment with a dental professional in Grand Rapids, it’s important to know the similarities and differences, so you receive quality care for your oral health. Check out some of the similarities and differences the Knapp Orthodontics Team has put together below:


Both dentists and orthodontists provide dental and oral care to patients. Both are certified doctors of dental medicine and help care for teeth, gums and oral health as it relates to your full body. Additionally, dentists and orthodontists both have graduated from dental school and are licensed as dentists in your state.


There are also differences between the two dental professions. Typically, patients see their family dentist for oral hygiene and check-ups every 6 months. If a dentist finds any irregularities or decay, they will commonly treat the patient with fillings or a crown. Other treatments a dentist will perform include extractions, veneers, and bonding to improve appearance of decayed or broken teeth. Although dentists fix oral irregularities and decay, their main goal is to make sure their patients take care of their teeth, so dental disease doesn’t take over.

As dentists and orthodontists must go through four years of dental education and an extensive exam to practice dentistry, orthodontists must go through additional training to become an orthodontic specialist. On top of four years of dental school, orthodontists complete a 2+ year program from the Commission on Dental Accreditation where they study in an orthodontic specialty. In this type of program, future orthodontists focus their education on how teeth function together, alignment, and jaw positioning.

It’s important to note that in some states, dentists can provide braces or clear aligners to patients, but this does not mean your dentist is an accredited orthodontist. If you’re looking to go through orthodontic treatment, it’s best to consult with your dentist and an orthodontist. Before moving forward with treatment, ask about your dentist’s or orthodontist’s background and experience, as an orthodontist is the only type of dental professional who completed specialized training in orthodontic care and moving teeth.


The confusion between what a dentist and orthodontist are qualified to perform is understandable. If you still have questions related to the professions and what your dental needs require, let us know by contacting our orthodontic specialist at Knapp Orthodontics. If you think you need orthodontic treatment, we can even set you up with a free consultation to go through dental care options in more detail. As we provide orthodontic treatment for kids, teenagers and adults alike, we look forward to meeting you.



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