Dr. Jim Watson of Watson Orthodontics has some tips to help patients in Houston, TX distinguish between a dentist and an orthodontist. The difference between a dentist and an orthodontist may be indistinguishable to some people – something that many folks don’t know is that all orthodontists can be dentists, but not all dentists can be orthodontists. They are both certified oral health care professionals, treat and maintain the health of your teeth and gums, and have the education and experience to be called doctors. In these areas, they are pretty comparable. However, lets break down the differences.

What’s the Difference Between Dentist and Orthodontist?

Orthodontist require further schooling and more experience in their specialty (orthodontics) beyond their dental school training. A similar example would be if a medical doctor elects to take special training to become a surgeon. So, if a dentist has a patient with a dental malocclusion, they will refer them to an orthodontist for treatment.

What Services Do Orthodontists Provide?

Braces. One of the main treatment approaches orthodontist use to align and straighten teeth are traditional metal braces. Traditional braces are comprised of brackets, wires, and bands that straighten your teeth and which are continually tightened over a prescribed amount of time. Dr. Watson also offer patients in Houston, TX treatment with light-colored ceramic braces (for patients who do not want their braces to be noticeable), and even fun clear-colored bands for his youngest patients. Braces can also be indicated for patients with overbites, underbites, and overcrowded or gapped teeth. Braces are worn by many patients to achieve a perfect-picture smile.

Space maintainers. When baby teeth are lost earlier than normal, space fillers are used so that the neighboring teeth do not grow into the space meant for the adult tooth to grow into. These space maintainers are used to keep the gap open until more childhood teeth fall out and the adult teeth begin to grow in. Fixed space maintainers work with a band that is attached to one tooth and a wire that is extended across the gap to the tooth on the other side to stretch and keep the gap open.

Aligners. Like braces, aligners help to straighten and align teeth, and they are indicated in treating:

  • underbites
  • overbites
  • open bites
  • cross bites
  • crowded teeth

Aligners like Invisalign are clear plastic trays that fit around your teeth and apply consistent pressure to straighten your teeth and contribute to your perfect smile.

Jaw repositioning appliances. Jaw repositioning appliances, sometimes called splints, are used to adjust either the upper or the lower jaw so that the whole jaw structure performs more naturally. Most often, this appliance is prescribed for patients with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

Lip and cheek bumpers. Sometimes, patient’s lips and cheeks can put pressure on their teeth and cause pain or discomfort. Watson Orthodontics recommends lip and cheek bumpers for these patients to help keep the lips and cheeks away from the teeth and thus reduce or eliminate the pressure, pain, or discomfort that the patient is experiencing.

Palatal expander. A palatal expander is used to widen the curve of the upper jaw. It is a plastic tray which fits on the roof of the mouth and helps to better align the bones and joints in the mouth.

Removable retainers. After orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign, using a retainer to keep the teeth from shifting back to their original positions is often indicated. Retainers are a plate that is placed on the roof of the mouth; a wire runs across the outside of the front teeth. Retainers may also be constructed as a plastic aligner. More often than not, these aligners are worn during the night.

Headgear. Usually a strap placed around the back of the head which is attached to a metal wire in the front of the mouth, headgear is prescribed by orthodontist for patients who need to slow the growth of their jaw, and to make sure that the patient’s teeth are in the right place and fit nicely within the jaw.

Any Questions?

Dr. Watson and the team at Watson Orthodontics can help answer any questions you might have about orthodontics in Houston, TX. If you still have questions about the differences between orthodontics and dentistry, or, if you’re clear on it and would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Watson, contact us today!


Dr. Jim Watson and the team at Watson Orthodontics are experts in orthodontia. If you have any questions pertaining to Invisalign, Invisalign Teen, braces and clear braces in the 77429 zip code: Cypress TX, Harris County TX, Houston TX, Spring TX, Tomball TX, or would like to schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Watson, contact Watson Orthodontics at: (281) 955-7612