What is an orthodontist?


Orthodontists are dental specialists. They specialise in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of dental and facial irregularities to help correctly align teeth, bites and jaws, including straightening teeth.

Did you know that orthodontists complete an additional three years of university training, on top of their general dental degree?

What’s the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

Orthodontists and dentists share many similarities - they work together to help you improve your overall oral health - but they actually work in very different ways.

Dentists cover a broad range of oral health issues. Orthodontics, on the other hand, is a specialisation within dentistry that focuses on issues such as straightening teeth and correcting improper bite patterns.

In order for patients to make informed decisions regarding treatment, it’s important to be aware of a few key differences between orthodontists and dentists:


  • A general dentist is similar to your family GP medical doctor – they are skilled general practitioners who can diagnose and treat problems and common diseases that affect your teeth, mouth and gums.
  • Dentists complete a General Dental Degree.
  • They are experts in general dental care and maintenance for all ages.
  • Unlike orthodontists, dentists are not trained at university in putting on braces and performing other orthodontic treatment and most general dentists will refer patients requiring orthodontic treatment to specialist orthodontists.


  • Orthodontists are registered dental specialists who have completed an additional three years of full-time University training in orthodontics, facial growth and development, biology and biomechanics (they hold a General Dental Degree + Specialist Orthodontic Degree).
  • Orthodontists are facial growth and dental development experts. They diagnose and treat crooked teeth, bad bites and poorly aligned jaws.
  • Orthodontists are experts in all orthodontic treatment options and technologies for children, teens and adults.

So, who should I see for advice about my smile?

When it comes to orthodontic care, we do not recommend that patients see anyone who is not a specialist orthodontist.

Patients should absolutely continue to see their dentist for regular check-ups and cleaning throughout their orthodontic treatment, however, patients need to be aware that a general dentist offering orthodontic treatment does not have the additional university training, knowledge and experience in orthodontics that specialist orthodontists do.

Both dentists and orthodontists play a valuable role in keeping your teeth healthy and looking good. They will always work together to achieve optimal results for you and your children. Although a referral from a dentist is not required for you to be seen by an orthodontist, it is always a good idea to first see your family dentist for a check-up and then request a referral to a specialist orthodontist that they have a good working relationship with.


About this blog

The Australian Society of Orthodontists (ASO) is the peak body for Orthodontists and orthodontic knowledge across Australia.

Orthodontics Australia by the ASO, is the ASO’s public information and advice channel. Our blog and social media platforms have been designed to assist your research efforts and help you understand the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist, your orthodontic treatment options, the results you can expect and the journey along the way.

Of course, we can help you find registered orthodontists too with no referral needed! We hope you find this resource helpful and it gives you the confidence to take the next step in achieving the smile you’ve always wanted.

If you’re unsure of where to find a registered orthodontist, check the Find An Orthodontist tool on the ASO website.