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What is an orthodontist? What does an orthodontist do? You may be wondering why your specialized dental issues can’t be handled by your regular dentist, or why it may be more beneficial to seek an expert in orthodontics. We’re going to take some time to explain why you should consider coming to a specialized orthodontist and why that might be more beneficial to your overall dental health.

What is Orthodontics and what is an Orthodontist?

Orthodontists are dental experts who specialize in the malformation or misalignment of the teeth or jaws. More specifically, they diagnose, manage, prevent, and correct poor positioning or misalignment of the jaw and teeth. From gaps to overlaps, from twisted or crooked teeth, if your teeth or any bone structure in your mouth is poorly shaped or malformed, an orthodontist can move the teeth that then assists in moving bone structure.This  also helps prevent issues from happening in the future.

If you’ve ever been to see an orthodontist, you likely saw them when you were a child, as children’s teeth and jaws are still forming and are easier to fix, but that does not mean that orthodontists don’t see adults fairly regularly. In fact, some statistics show that up to 27% of adults seek orthodontic work every year. Essentially, there is never a bad time to see an orthodontist, especially if you are having bite issues or the alignment of your teeth is causing you pain and discomfort.

Types of Services

What does an orthodontist do? If you are wondering what is an orthodontist, then you likely want to consider what type of services they offer. The answer to the question of what does an orthodontist do is actually quite extensive and will generally be answered with the following types of services.


Likely the most common service offered by an orthodontist, orthodontists are responsible for applying, repairing, and removing braces. The application of braces has become so common that almost 3.5 million children and teens get braces every year, and 1 in 4 patients seeking braces are adults. Braces come in a wide variety of materials and styles, such as:

  • Metal braces are the most common type of braces and also the most affordable. Metal braces are generally beloved for their affordability and durability. However, due to the durability of the material and the stability of the placement, metal braces generally require fewer repairs and replacements and will fix dental alignment efficiently.
  • Lingual braces are great for those who are looking to hide their braces. Made of a sturdy metal that goes behind the teeth, lingual braces are a solid option if you don’t want your braces to be as obvious while they repair your teeth, though this option can be a little more expensive than standard braces. Please note, not all Orthodontists offer Lingual Braces.
  • Ceramic braces are also a great option for those looking to hide their braces from prying eyes. A little more expensive and a little less sturdy than standard braces, ceramic braces are still a great option for those seeking to improve their smile and teeth alignment while hiding their braces.


If you are looking to fix overbites, underbites, cross bites, open bites, or adjust any teeth crowding, orthodontists use aligners to help readjust your teeth for proper bites. Invisalign is the most common type of aligner, but these are generally a plastic material that are molded to fit around your teeth to adjust them into perfect alignment. Aligners like Invisalign are great for those who want to make their smile more aligned and beautiful without the invasiveness of standard braces or the complicated cleaning procedures required. This completely invisible material can be removed during eating and cleaning but should remain in your mouth for at least 21 hours a day for proper alignment.


Once braces are removed, you’ll likely want to maintain the perfect alignment that you have spent anywhere from 18 months to three years attaining. Retainers are removable appliances that help keep your teeth in the proper position. Orthodontists can help assign and create the perfect retainer for you and are also used in the readjustment of your retainer over time.

Space Maintainers

A common procedure performed on children, space maintainers are used when baby teeth fall out too early and aren’t going to be replaced with adult teeth. A space maintainer uses a band that attaches to a tooth with a wire extended to another tooth on the other side of the gap in order to keep the necessary space for the adult tooth to eventually grow in.

Lip and Cheek Bumpers

If your lips and cheeks are putting too much pressure on your teeth, a lip and cheek bumper can be placed in your mouth to help move your lips and cheeks away from your teeth, allowing teeth and bone to expand.

Jaw Repositioning

Sometimes referred to as splints, jaw repositioning is the act of placing an appliance on the lower or upper jaw so that the lower jaw muscles can relax and bite in a natural position. Properly aligned jaws are more comfortable and allow the orthodontist to align the teeth in an ideal position.

These, along with many other procedures, are the type of procedures that make up what is orthodontics.

Education Requirements for an Orthodontist

Now that we have looked at what an orthodontist does, you are probably wondering if an orthodontist requires the same amount of education as a dentist. In fact, not only does an orthodontist need a doctoral degree in dentistry, but they will also need to complete a three-year specialized orthodontic training program after completing their dental degree. Essentially, an orthodontist is a dentist, they are just a dentist with very specialized training in the realm of teeth and jaw alignment.

orthodontists must also be licensed by a state dental licensing board, which will generally require the orthodontist to not only complete the dental requirements but also complete a written exam and clinical examination.

What is the difference between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?

If you are asking ‘what is an orthodontist’, you are likely wondering if an orthodontist is just a dentist. In a fashion, yes, orthodontists are dentists, as they have completed a doctorate program in dentistry and are, in most states, licensed as a dentist. However, because orthodontics is a very specialized field, orthodontists receive specialized training in teeth and jaw alignment and positioning. In a fashion, asking if an orthodontist is a dentist is like asking if a cardiologist  is a doctor. Yes, they are, but they are a very specialized category according to the American Association of Orthodontics.

Why is it important to see an Orthodontist?

Obviously having a beautiful smile can help with self-esteem and personal self-image, but there is a lot more to orthodontics than just cosmetic improvements. Misaligned teeth and jaws can cause significant pain and discomfort that can critically affect a person’s quality of life. If your mouth is properly aligned, it can affect how you bite and chew, which can cause not only inconveniences in your day-to-day life but also lead to abnormal wearing of tooth enamel. In fact, misaligned teeth, if not prevented or treated early, can cause all kinds of issues later on in life that can lead to costly dental treatments and a significant decline in health and happiness.

At Brimingham Orthodontics, we offer free consultations and all sorts of payment options and discounts to help you get the treatment that you need. Our team of expert orthodontists and friendly staff can get you a properly aligned mouth that will give you a beautiful smile and overall better dental care.

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