Have you ever wondered why it’s often recommended you see an orthodontist for braces or Invisalign treatment? Many first time patients have questions, and one we hear quite frequently is, “Why can’t I just go to my dentist for braces?” There’s a common misconception that dentists and orthodontists are more or less the same things, but that’s definitely not the reality. There are some very real differences between dentists and orthodontists!

CHT Orthodontics wants to help you understand these differences, and why it’s important to choose an experienced orthodontist for treatment to correct bite and alignment issues.

The Orthodontist Difference

While there are some similarities between orthodontists and dentists, there are also a number of differences that set them apart. Orthodontists and dentists both attend dental school, but after graduation, orthodontists take a different path. There’s additional work and further education required to specialize in straightening teeth.

This is similar to the difference between medical doctors who are general practitioners and those who specialize in fields like cardiology or anesthesiology. Orthodontists are essentially dentists with specialized, additional training.

Dental school can be challenging, but there’s a lot of competition to gain acceptance into an orthodontic residency program. Did you know that only the top 5% of graduates are even considered for admission to a residency? For some programs, only a handful out of the hundreds of applicants received are accepted.

After being admitted into a residency program, orthodontists undergo an additional 2-3 years of full-time training.  This training concentrates on orthodontic issues and treatments including braces, bite problems, and straightening teeth. A doctor is only able to advertise as a true orthodontist once he or she successfully completes this intense residency program.

Becoming an orthodontist takes a lot of dedication and hard work!

Can dentists provide orthodontic care?

Technically, yes. General dentists are sometimes able to provide orthodontic care to patients. However, there are some requirements before that can, or should, happen.

A dentist can provide orthodontic care to patients only if they commit to taking continuing education seminars, as well as acquiring some personal experience with a particular subject. For example, a dentist wishing to offer Invisalign would be required to attend related workshops first.

Unfortunately, workshops and seminars lack the kind of testing and examinations that allow orthodontists to truly learn the material in depth. A superficial understanding of a subject isn’t always enough to correctly provide the best treatment possible for patients.

Unlike general dentists, orthodontists focus on orthodontic care as their only specialty. They do teeth straightening procedures almost daily and remain up-to-date on the latest industry practices. They also tend to have the latest equipment and often participate in continuing education classes focusing primarily on orthodontics.

In essence, experienced orthodontists know the best, most up-to-date treatment methods and can customize an approach for each patient, based on their particular needs.

The right choice


If you have a heart condition, would you prefer to be treated by your primary care physician or a dedicated cardiologist? I think it’s safe to say most of us would want the latter! A trained cardiologist would have more experience and more specific skills in matters of the heart. This same approach applies to your teeth.

Ultimately, the choice is up to you. Just remember that because orthodontists focus solely on orthodontic issues, they’re much more likely to have experience in dealing with specialized cases.

Many dentists will be much more familiar with developing short-term results and treatment plans, whereas orthodontists often undertake long-term care plans for patients. Orthodontists are also in a better position to understand optimal orthodontic treatments, such as metal braces, Invisalign, ceramic braces, etc. and how to avoid complications with each.

If you know that you or your child will require orthodontic work over an extended period of time, an orthodontist will be better equipped to see you through from start to finish!

Dr. Carrie, Orthodontist Extraordinaire

In addition to many years of education, which include

– Bachelor of Science with honors – University of Notre Dame
– Doctorate of Dental Surgery with honors – University of Michigan
– Omicron Kappa Upsilon Dental Honor Society for Academic Achievement and Leadership
– Residency in Orthodontics and Master of Science in Oral Sciences – University of Illinois

Dr. Carrie regularly attends continuing education courses and is an active member of the American Dental Association, the American Association of Orthodontists, the Illinois Society of Orthodontists, and the Illinois State Dental Society. She believes being a student of the profession is of great importance! She also continues to evaluate new treatment systems that can lead to even better outcomes for her patients.

Dr. Carrie feels fortunate to be part of a profession that is dedicated to serving and helping people of all ages. Understanding every patient is unique, she tailors each treatment she provides to reflect that. Her experienced team works very hard at making sure each patient feels right at home from the moment they walk through our doors. She loves to watch her patients grow and succeed in their smiles and beyond. Her CHT Orthodontics families have become her friends!

Remember when deciding on dental or orthodontic care that you only have one set of teeth. Fixing issues that result from bad orthodontic care is not easy, and can be expensive, not to mention time-consuming!  Plan to get the best treatment right from the start by choosing an experienced orthodontic provider who has many happy clients – like Dr. Carrie at CHT Orthodontics! Give us a call today for more information on what we offer and how we can help you and your smile.