There are orthodontists and there are general dentists that do orthodontics called orthodontic providers. Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry that requires additional education following dental school. They do not do fillings, extractions, root canals, crowns or bridges or any other procedures that are performed by a general dentist. Orthodontists take classes in physics, understand biomechanics and bone morphology among many other principles of creating a harmonious smile, function and beauty of the teeth. They are also knowledgeable about the temporomandibular joint, growth and development of the face and airway.
An orthodontic provider is not an orthodontist. They have completed four years of dental school as the orthodontists have done, but have not had the additional training at a university based institution.
A graduate from a dental school that has received a DDS or DMD is allowed by law to provide specialty services such as extractions, root canals, orthodontics, periodontics or any other dental specialty without going through a university based education program. The law states that a general dentist is legally allowed to provide these procedures, but the procedures must be to the level of proficiency as a specialist.
In most cases, the public is unaware that an orthodontist is different than an orthodontic provider. It is wise to look closely at whomever you choose to provide orthodontic care to you or your family. When looking for someone to provide orthodontic treatment, make sure he or she is an orthodontist and not just an orthodontic provider. Look at his or her credentials; make sure they do only orthodontics.
Your insurance company cannot force you to go to an orthodontic provider if you have orthodontic coverage. You have the right to have an orthodontist provide the service. You can also ask the receptionist if you will be treated by an orthodontist or an orthodontic provider.
This information is provided to help consumers of orthodontics make an informed decision.