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Orthodontist or Dentist — Which Should I Choose?

Most people know that when they need a regular check-up, a general dentist is the right call. But many are confused about when to seek out a specialist like an orthodontist. Who should you see about dental emergencies? What if your teeth are crooked, too spacey, too cramped, or sticking out? And what if you have jaw pain? 

Our team of specialists at LM Orthodontics in McLean, Virginia gets these questions all the time. That’s why we’ve created this list of differences between dentists and orthodontists, so you can learn the benefits of each, match your needs with the right professional, and make the best choice for you.


One of the main differences between dentists and orthodontists is the amount and kind of education and training they receive. 


Dentists have the initials DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Medical Dentistry) following their names. 


Like dentists, orthodontists also have the initials DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Medical Dentistry) after their names, but they also have other credentials, such as our doctors:

Services performed

Although some people wonder which is better, a dentist or an orthodontist, that’s the wrong question. It’s not about superiority; it’s about area of expertise. And while there are some services that might overlap between the two professionals, you can generally make the right decision by learning what each one focuses on.


Dentists are typically concerned with your overall oral health. If you need a check-up or a cleaning, make an appointment with your general dentist. Dentists also regularly treat issues like:


Orthodontists specialize in the movement and proper alignment of your teeth and jaw. You should contact our team if you have:

Whether you’re an adult hoping to solve a lifelong problem or an issue that just cropped up, or you have a child or teenager you want to help prevent future alignment-related dental issues, we can help. 

What an orthodontist can do for you

If you’re not sure which professional to choose, the experts can help you decide. Dentists routinely refer their patients to us when specialty care is necessary. Here are a few of the services our orthodontists provide.

Clear aligners

After taking 3D imagery of your teeth, we can determine exactly how, when, where, and at what pace to move your crooked teeth back into proper position. There are many types of clear aligners (the popular invisible straighteners), and we offer both Invisalign® and 3M™ Clarity™ aligners.


Clear aligners aren’t for everybody or every dental issue, so we also offer traditional and clear braces. 

Other services

In addition to teeth straightening, we also help correct your bite to help you you chew, speak, swallow, and breathe better. We might use expanders to widen a narrow palate or perform corrective jaw surgery to change the function and look of your mouth. 

And if you have an emergency that involves your dental appliances, seek medical attention right away to take care of any immediate physical problems, and call us as soon as you can so we can evaluate your oral cavity and perform any repairs or treatments necessary.

Now that you know the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist, we hope you’ll feel more comfortable deciding which one you need, and understand how we can help you as orthodontists. Give us a call at 703-498-2047 to schedule an appointment and explore the benefits of orthodontics.


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