Maybe you have a child that’s having trouble chewing their food or playing an instrument due to an over or underbite. Maybe you have a cavity that needs to be checked out. Or you might need something more than just a regular visit to the dentist. Who do you go to? It may get a little confusing at times to know whether you need to see a dentist, endodontist, or orthodontist, but keep reading. Here you’ll learn the difference so you can decide who you need to see.
A dentist is like your primary doctor, but for the teeth. A dentist is able to look at your teeth and determine if there are any issues and how to either correct or prevent such issues. To elaborate, their responsibilities include:
- Determining if you have an oral disease
- Helping you prevent oral disease and promote the overall health of your teeth
- Create treatment plans that either manage or restore oral health
- Interpret x-rays and diagnostic tests
- Ensure anesthetics are administered safely
- Monitor the growth and development of teeth and jaws
- Perform surgical procedures on teeth, bone, and soft tissues of an oral cavity
Surgical procedures your dentist may have to perform on you can include the following:
- Crowns, and more
A dentist does not just care for a patient’s teeth and gums. They also care for muscles of the head, neck and jaw, the tongue, salivary glands, the nervous system of the head and neck, and other areas. During an examination, the dentist will examine teeth and gums, but they’ll also look for lumps, swelling, discoloration, ulcerations, and anything else deemed abnormal. If needed, they can perform biopsies, diagnostic tests for infectious diseases, salivary gland function, and tests for oral cancer.
Dentists can also spot early warning signs of disease elsewhere in the body by looking at the mouth. Warning signs here can spell trouble elsewhere. If the problem is more extensive, your dentist will send you to a specialist who has a better understanding of the area of your mouth that needs treatment. Two such dental specialists are endodontists and orthodontists.
An endodontist deals with the health of your dental pulp and nerves in the tooth. The majority of people see this professional for root canals, but they can do much more. Other services they perform include:
- Apicoectomies, where infected tissue is removed from tip of tooth’s root
- Endodontic re-treatment (prior failed root canal)
- Treating pulp damage due to traumatic dental injury
Root canal therapy is needed when a tooth’s pulp is infected. This is more likely than not the result of untreated tooth decay or a traumatic dental injury. The procedure involves making a small hole in the tooth affected, removing dead or infected pulp tissue, replacing it with a sterile biocompatible filler, and sealing the tooth to ensure reinfection does not occur. It’s usually performed under local anesthesia using tiny instruments, in some cases a microscope
Despite myths, a root canal rarely causes little more than minor discomfort. It does its’ job at relieving pain caused by pulp inflammation. The success rate of this procedure is 95%, which means that a tooth that would have otherwise been lost can be saved 95% of the time. So there is a fair difference.
Their job is to prevent, diagnose, and treat facial and dental irregularities such as under or overbites (malocclusions). They’re experts when it comes to correcting misaligned teeth and jaws. There are various problems associated with misalignment, such as speech defects, difficulty chewing and maintaining oral hygiene. Here’s an overview of some of the most common issues they treat:
- Anteroposterior Deviations – Some examples of anteroposterior deviations under-bites, in which the lower teeth are in front of the upper teeth when one bites down, and an over-bite, when one’s upper teeth fall in front of the lower teeth. These bites can interfere with speaking and eating.
- Overcrowding – Overcrowding is one of the most common problems orthodontists treat. Lack of jawbone space means adult teeth cannot line up correctly with existing teeth. They can realign teeth using a number of unobtrusive devices and treatments.
- Aesthetic Issues – In some cases, the shape of the whole face is negatively impacted by malocclusions or a bad bite. They can restructure and realign the jaw, lips and teeth to give each client the perfect smile.
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This professional performs a thorough examination of the mouth, teeth, and jaws. Radiographic images, photographs, and dental scans are taken prior to treatment. Here’s a brief explanation of some treatments they may use:
- Dental braces – The combination of brackets (which are affixed to each individual tooth), and a wire (which connects each bracket) are placed to gently train the teeth into proper alignment. Dental braces can be made of metal, ceramics or clear materials.
- Clear aligners – These are clear retainers designed by the orthodontist (via a computer program and 3D printing) to gradually move your teeth, much like braces would. They must be worn 24/7 to get the desired tooth movement. Just about anything that can be fixed with braces can be corrected with clear aligners as well. Invisalign is the most common brand of these.
- Herbst appliances – These devices are generally used to correct overbites, in combination with braces. This appliances encourage the lower jaw to advance into proper alignment with the upper jaw.
- Retainers – After the teeth have been aligned using one or both of the above treatments, a retainer is always required to ensure that teeth remain in their new positions. These can either be cemented in place (a fixed retainer wire) or can be removable. While each person is different, patients are advised to wear retainers religiously immediately following completion of tooth movement to allow the bone around the teeth to reform into a stable position. In most cases, the orthodontist will recommend the patient wear the retainer at “nighttime for a lifetime” to prevent movement of the teeth.
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Whether you need a dentist vs endodontist vs orthodontist, hopefully, you now understand what role each expert plays, and who you may need for what. Expert Orthodontist Dr. Nease can give you or your child a beautiful smile. We hope you choose us for all your dental health needs!
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Nease and Higginbotham Orthodontics
424 Hyatt Street – Suite E
Phone: (864) 579-7700
An Orthodontist is Different From an Endodontist (HOW?)