“Orthodontist, Dentist, or Mail Order” – Who Should I See for Straight Teeth?

Both orthodontists and dentists work to maintain oral health in their patients but in different ways. General dentists address the broad spectrum of oral health with a focus on clean teeth and healthy gums. Orthodontists are specialists in oral care and focus on proper tooth and jaw alignment. While all orthodontists are dentists, not all dentists are orthodontists. Dentists and orthodontic specialists work together to provide and maintain a healthy, beautiful smile in their patients.

Orthodontists must have at least two years of additional schooling or training beyond four years of dental school to become an orthodontic specialist. Dentists should be seen on a routine basis for cleanings to prevent tooth decay that could lead to more serious issues requiring root canals, crowns, gum disease, and even tooth loss. They can also provide cosmetic dentistry related to teeth whitening, veneers, and bridges. Orthodontic specialists monitor jaw development and permanent tooth eruption in children seven years old and older, straighten and align teeth in adolescents and adults, improve how the teeth come together (bite) to prevent premature tooth wear or damage, and can address issues related to the jaw joint (TMJ).

While general dentists can provide some orthodontic care, often using clear aligners/ Invisalign©, the degree of treatment is often limited because the extent of training in tooth movement is not that of an orthodontic specialist. Just as an orthodontist can detect tooth decay or gum disease, this is not their specialty, and they will refer a patient with these concerns back to the general dentist for treatment. An orthodontic specialist has the additional training and variety of treatment methods and corrective devices to straighten teeth, alleviate crowding and close spaces, and to correct overbites, underbites, and misaligned jaws most effectively.

Like general dentists, pediatric dentists focus on overall tooth and gum health. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends children have an initial consultation by an orthodontic specialist beginning at age seven to address any potential jaw or tooth development issues. An evaluation by an orthodontic specialist is different from exams performed by a pediatric or general dentist. Some orthodontic problems are easier to address and correct when treated early rather than waiting for all the permanent teeth to erupt or until facial growth is nearly complete.

Direct-to-consumer or “mail order” orthodontics should be avoided at all costs. Mail-order patients are not evaluated in-person to determine what treatment, if any, is most appropriate and are not monitored in-person through the course of treatment. Orthodontic specialists provide customized, “transformational” medical treatment based on in-person, pre-treatment evaluations (including dental records and panoramic x-rays) to evaluate any concerns or potential problems that may be below the gums and provide ongoing, in-person supervision to ensure the teeth are in the proper position and the jaws are in alignment. Orthodontic treatment that is not properly evaluated and supervised could lead to potentially irreversible and expensive damage, such as tooth loss.

Dr. Kelly Morgan is a Harvard-trained orthodontic specialist who takes a whole-body wellness approach to orthodontics to ensure the best opportunity for a healthy, confident smile. Morgan Orthodontics is known for their friendliness and professionalism. We accommodate the busiest of schedules and offer a complimentary middle school limo service! Making our patients smile by offering excellent customer service, the latest technology and the highest quality of care is just part of the Morgan Difference.

For patient convenience, Morgan Orthodontics has two offices. The Lansdowne office serves Leesburg, Sterling, Ashburn, and Loudoun County. The Winchester office serves Frederick and Clark counties and the greater Shenandoah Valley. Consultations are always complimentary.