January 15, 2020

What is an Orthodontist? [Learn How an Invisalign Dentist Can Help You]


What is an Orthodontist? You Asked, We Answered:

For most of us, our teenage years cause us to visibly cringe, and you likely keep your yearbooks far out of reach from your potentially mocking children. While we all know some people who peaked in middle or high school, others of us had our share of awkward growth years. In many cases, that included months of braces, headgear, retainers and more. Heavy metal may not have only described your favorite type of music at one point, but also could have been an apt description for what your friends and family saw when – and if – you smiled. With your lips open.

If you’re lucky enough to attend a Metallica concert as an adult, you want to hear the music just like you did back in the day. But your braces? Most of us would rather not want to revisit that part of our youth. Fortunately, orthodontic technology has evolved since then, and now it’s common for both teenagers and one of their parents to be sporting some sort of tooth-straightening contraption.

In this blog I’ll answer commonly asked questions such as what is an orthodontist, how an orthodontist can help you, what does an orthodontist do and more.

What is an Orthodontist?

When my patients ask me what is an orthodontist, I let them know that orthodontists are dentists who received further education to learn how to diagnose and treat dental deformities and correct any irregular relationship between the lower and upper jaw.

What are an Orthodontist’s Education Requirements?

Before becoming an orthodontist, an individual must attend dental school, as was covered in my previous blog post “What is a General Dentist?” Similar to those who attend medical school, students learn some basics about the specialization of orthodontics in dental school, just enough to learn that they want to further focus their future practice. So after dental school, dentists must complete two to three years of an orthodontic residency program. According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), “it’s in the orthodontic residency program that orthodontists receive intensive instruction to learn proper, safe tooth movement (orthodontics) and the guidance of dental, jaw and facial development (dentofacial orthopedics). These extra years of schooling make the orthodontist the dental specialist in moving teeth and aligning jaws. This is the only focus of their practice.”

Many orthodontists also choose to become Board certified by the American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) after they graduate from their residency program. Once board-certified, professionals are known as Diplomates of the American Board of Orthodontics.

Reasons to Get Orthodontic Treatment 

I previously mentioned that orthodontists diagnose and treat dental deformities and correct any irregular relationship between the lower and upper jaw, so let’s dive deeper into both of those to understand the reasons to see an orthodontist.

1. Dental Deformities

First, dental deformities may sound scary, but many people have them and they generally can be identified as:

  • Teeth that are either too close or too far apart from their neighbors 
  • Teeth that meet irregularly or not at all, including a gap between teeth
  • Teeth that stick out
  • Jaws that don’t quite match up when someone bites

2. Hyperdontia

Hyperdontia – or having too many teeth in one’s mouth – is another condition, albeit a rare one, that may be considered a dental deformity. As adults, we normally have 32 teeth in our mouth, whereas children generally have 20 baby or primary teeth. Someone with hyperdontia has more than their allotted amount. To treat hyperdontia, patients must remove the extra tooth or teeth, and then correct their bite with the recommended orthodontics.

One of the most famous individuals who experienced hyperdontia is none other than Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury. Rumor has it that he had four extra teeth in the back of his mouth, which caused his unique smile. It’s been widely reported, especially after the resurgence of popularity after the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, that one reason Freddie didn’t have his extra teeth removed is that he worried it would affect his voice. Whether or not the extra teeth were the reason for his powerful voice, that guy could sing!

And it’s worth noting that some people with hyperdontia may also have a cleft palate, the rare and genetic Gardner’s Syndrome or another condition.


3. Irregular Relationship Between the Lower and Upper Jaw

Many people experience an irregular relationship between lower and upper jaw. Even if you can’t see it, the below symptoms of an irregular relationship between the lower and upper jaw include:

  • Tight jaw or clicking jaw
  • Pain in your temple
  • Popping in your ear
  • Pain in your jaw joint 
  • Pain in your back or shoulder


No one deserves to live in discomfort, so if you experience any of these symptoms it’s best to speak with your dentist during your next visit.

What Does an Orthodontist Do?

Now that we’ve reviewed some different reasons why someone may need to see an orthodontist, we’ll answer what does an orthodontist do. Simply put, orthodontists will create a custom treatment plan to straighten a patient’s teeth and fix their jaw. Sounds simple? It’s not! To create the custom orthodontic plan, orthodontists must collect a lot of information to determine which hardware can best accomplish this delicate feat.

Orthodontists see patients in their office and conduct exams, and also utilize 2D or 3D x-rays, photos and molds of the teeth. With this information, and because every patient is different, the orthodontist will work with the patient and possibly the patient’s general dentist to develop a custom treatment plan. 

An Orthodontist treatment plan will generally include the following components:

  • Appliances, or the devices that the patient puts in his or her mouth to move the teeth. While metal braces are still used, clear aligners or even braces on the inside of the teeth. Retainers also can help hold the teeth in place after the hard part is over.
  • Length of treatment. The length of treatment depends on the extent of work that needs to be done. Generally, patients with more severe dental deformities require a longer treatment, but that’s not always the case. For example, patients whose bones tend to be on the delicate side may require a longer treatment.
  • Cost. Some insurance plans cover the cost, or partially cover the cost, of orthodontic treatment. Read your plan carefully and call the plan administrator if you have any questions. Also, if you balk at the cost, talk with the staff at your orthodontist’s office. Many times they can set up a payment plan for you or the office may work with an outside organization that can provide a temporary loan with a low interest rate. Cost shouldn’t be a reason to forgo the right treatment that can last a lifetime, so an open conversation with your provider may be needed.

Do I Need an Orthodontist for Invisalign?

While many advanced orthodontic treatments should be managed by a board certified orthodontist, general dentists can treat certain orthodontic needs with Invisalign. So the answer to “do I need an orthodontist for Invisalign” is no! 

Invisalign can help solve quite a few orthodontic problems, including:

  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • Crossbite
  • Openbite
  • Spacing
  • Crowding

Not sure exactly what those are or need a refresher? Click here.

How does Invisalign Work?

Invisalign straightens teeth without braces; rather the system uses aligners which are removable and virtually invisible. You can straighten your teeth discreetly and brush and floss normally to maintain healthy teeth and gums. You can eat and drink what you want because the aligners are removable, and you won’t experience mouth abrasions because you won’t have wires, metal or brackets in your mouth. Remember the wax when you had braces as a teen? Not with Invisalign!

How Long Does Invisalign Take?

The length of Invisalign treatment takes about 6 to 18 months, depending on the patient’s needs. Each aligner is worn for 1 to 2 weeks and you’ll need to check in with your dentist after about three sets of aligners. Your teeth will gradually move each week, and you’ll notice a difference in your look and feel a difference in your bite within a couple of weeks.


What most patients appreciate is that South Gables Dental uses the latest in dental technology to determine the Invisalign treatment plan. iTero is a digital scanner that takes an incredibly detailed impression of your teeth and gums – without the goop! The scan only takes a few minutes and once it’s complete, your dentist will have a 3D model of your mouth. Next time you’re at South Gables Dental, ask your hygienist or dental assistant for a free scan. You’ll be amazed when you see the visual image of how your smile can be transformed with Invisalign. 

How an Orthodontist or Invisalign Dentist Can Help You

Straight teeth aren’t only aesthetically pleasing, but they also may solve or help you avoid other dental or oral problems. 

People who suffer from Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMJ, often find relief from their jaw pain or discomfort after orthodontic treatment, including Invisalign. Bruxism, more commonly known as teeth grinding, can often occur due to misaligned teeth, as well as stress or sleep problems. Invisalign performs double duty since while the aligners slowly adjust the teeth during the months defined in the treatment plan, they also replace the bite guard many people wear when suffering from TMJ.

Straightening teeth can also alleviate the need for gum replacement surgery by a periodontist. From time to time general dentists see patients who had braces as teenagers but who may now require additional orthodontia as adults. Their teeth may have moved if they didn’t wear their retainers after having their braces removed, or other reasons. There is a certain amount of fixed or attached gums around each tooth covering the bone. If teeth are crowded and any of them are too far out to the front, the bone and gums surrounding the tooth can actually recede and weaken the tooth, causing the need for a gum replacement surgery. Orthodontia can actually put the tooth back into good solid bone and prevent the bone and gum recession from getting any worse.

Also, crowded and overlapping teeth attract more plaque and calculus (the hard build up on the teeth usually at the gumline). The presence of the bacteria produce acids on the teeth and gums which can also lead to gum disease and tooth decay. By straightening the patient’s teeth, we can close up any spaces and realign the teeth, which may stave off a visit to the periodontist.

See One of the Best Invisalign Dentists in Coral Gables, Florida

Depending on the severity of your orthodontic issues, a visit to an orthodontist may or may not be necessary. Your general dentist can solve some orthodontic issues and South Gables Dental has one of the top Invisalign dentists in Coral Gables.

Curious as to how your teeth would look after Invisalign? You can see a simulation now! If you’re reading this on your mobile phone, click here.

Thank you for reading our blog that answers the commonly asked questions of what is an orthodontist, what does an orthodontist do, what are types of orthodontic procedures and more. If you have further questions, feel free to call the office at 305-665-1263, email us at or ask us at your next visit. 

Whether you need a general dentist, periodontist, endodontist, orthodontist, oral surgeon, prosthodontist or pedodontist (children’s dentist), the team at South Gables Dental can help! Plus we offer emergency dental services in Coral Gables.

We’re seeing new patients, so you can contact us to schedule an appointment for all of your Coral Gables or Miami dentist needs.

I’m Dr. Lawrence Lesperance, a Coral Gables dentist who specializes in preventative dentistry, general dentistry services, and cosmetic dentistry services. My team and I provide personalized dental services for the whole family and offer Invisalign treatment, implant dentistry, periodontic services and botox treatments (for TMJ and migraines and cosmetic botox) and much more. Contact us to experience the South Gables Dental difference today!

Learn about different types of dentists.

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Wonder What Your New Smile Could Look Like With Invisalign? 😁