What's the Difference Between a Dentist and an Orthodontist?

difference between dentist and an orthodontist

If you're considering orthodontics for yourself or your child, you'll want to make sure you're getting the best treatment available.

While some dentists are qualified to provide orthodontic treatments using braces, aligners and retainers, an orthodontist has specialised training and experience that could make the difference to your treatment's success – especially if your needs are more complex.

What sets orthodontists apart?

A dentist in Australia needs to complete 5 years of training at university. This equips them with the knowledge and experience necessary to diagnose and treat a wide range of oral health problems. Some dentists may also complete minimum extra training to offer orthodontic treatments.

Orthodontists are fully qualified dentists who must complete at least 2 years' clinical experience and an extra 3 to 4 years of training at university to obtain a Master's degree in Orthodontics. They can then be registered as a specialist by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Education for orthodontists doesn't end there, as they will continue to keep up with the latest developments in the industry to offer their patients the best experience possible.

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a specialist area of dentistry that concerns the alignment of the teeth and jaws.

As well as affecting appearance, crooked teeth or a misaligned bite can make it more difficult to chew food, which can affect nutrition and lead to digestive problems.

They can also make it more difficult to brush and floss your teeth, which can increase your risk of developing dental diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease, affect speech, and cause other problems such as teeth grinding or joint disorders.

If an orthodontic issue is present, orthodontists will recommend the most suitable treatments to help straighten the teeth or align the jaws. Depending on how much straightening or alignment is needed, this may involve:

  • braces (metal braces, ceramic braces or other options)
  • aligners (such as Invisalign® clear aligners)
  • retainers (the final phase of orthodontic treatment to help maintain your new smile)
  • minor treatments such as space maintainers, plates or expanders

Although orthodontics is usually associated with teenagers, the development of more discreet options such as tooth-coloured ceramic braces, lingual braces fixed behind the teeth and transparent aligners have seen more adults choose orthodontics to help straighten their smiles.

Do I need to see an orthodontist

If you or your child have crooked or misaligned teeth, an orthodontist can help. Your dentist may refer you to a specialist orthodontist if they notice an orthodontic problem during your regular check-up, as they may not be suitably qualified to provide orthodontic treatments themselves, or your case may be more complex and require an expert.

Orthodontists can also sometimes assist with problems such as teeth grinding or jaw clenching (bruxism), sleep apnoea and children's thumb sucking that can also affect teeth.

You don't need a referral to visit an orthodontist.

Does an orthodontist cost more?

There are no standardised fees for orthodontic appointments and treatments in Australia. The price of your treatment will depend on the option you choose and the complexity of your individual case.

You should also check with the clinic or your health fund to find out if you're eligible for a rebate. Generally, more generous rebates are offered if you visit a registered orthodontist.

At Swish Dental, we keep prices as affordable as possible to help make orthodontic treatment available to everyone. Our standard braces fee is $6500, which can be considerably cheaper if you need a less intensive treatment. Minor treatments such as space maintainers, plates and expanders range from $350 to $1950.

Talk to an orthodontist in Brisbane

Dr Lesley Short is our specialist orthodontist in Brisbane. Lesley has helped people of all ages with a wide range of orthodontic issues for over 25 years and can discuss all the options that are suitable for you or your family.

To book an orthodontic consultation today, call our Everton Park clinic on (07) 3355 1422 or our Mitchelton clinic on (07) 3354 3341.


1. Orthodontics Australia. Difference between a dentist and orthodontist [Online] 2016 [Accessed August 2018] Available from: https://orthodonticsaustralia.org.au/difference-dentist-orthodontist/

2. Australian Society of Orthodontists. What is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist? [Online] 2001 [Accessed August 2018]