Dentist, Endodontist or Orthodontist? {FACTS!}

Being a parent is a huge responsibility! There is so much to learn, and every aspect of your child’s health and development feels equally important. Of course, you went through it all as a baby yourself, but you sure don’t remember, it now!


One of the most important aspects of your children’s growing up years is oral health care. The health of the teeth, gums and jaw bones are linked to all kinds of health issues, from heart disease to temporomandibular disorder (TMJ) to certain cancers. The healthier your child’s oral health habits are, the healthier she or he will be!

One confusing aspect for many first-time parents, in particular, is trying to figure out which oral health specialist their children needs to see. For instance, there is the dentist. Then there is the endodontist. And then there is the orthodontist. Which specialist does what?


Meet the Dentist

The dentist is the oral health practitioner you are probably most familiar with. Most adults head to the dentist at least annually for a cleaning and health checkup. Some dentists only work with adult patients, while other dentists have family practices where the whole family can get their care together.

Pediatric dentists specialize in young patients. In order to practice as a pediatric dentist, extra education and training are required. A pediatric dentist is responsible for cleaning your children’s teeth, detecting issues like cavities and fixing these, helping to teach your children good daily oral health care practices and making referrals to oral health specialists as needed.

For example, let’s say your son’s tooth develops an abscess. You bring him to your family dentist and the examination shows a root canal is needed. In this case, your dentist would refer you to a specialist called an endodontist who would perform this procedure.

Or let’s say your dentist notices that your daughter’s teeth are beginning to grow in. The teeth are more crowded or less well aligned than they should be. For this type of treatment, your dentist would refer you to an orthodontist to ensure that your daughter’s bite and alignment is optimal for health.


Meet the Endodontist

An endodontist is a dentist who is also an oral health specialist. According to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE), less than three percent of dentists are also endodontics specialists. An endodontist has received extra education and training to work with the interior structure of the teeth (called the dental pulp). In fact, the term “endodontist” means “interior tooth” from the Greek words “endo” and “odont.”

Your dentist might refer you to an endodontist because there is an issue with the interior or pulp of the tooth. This soft matter can become inflamed, infected or compromised as the adult teeth grow in. An endodontist can also treat tooth pulp or root trauma from accidents or injuries.

While some dentists can also perform endodontics procedures, a full-time endodontics specialist does dental pulp, root and nerve procedures on a daily basis and has built up a great deal of skill working with the inner portion of the tooth. An endodontics specialist can often save a tooth that otherwise might be lost due to infection or trauma.

boy and father

Meet the Orthodontist

According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), your son or daughter should have his or her first orthodontic examination at the age of seven. An orthodontist is a dentist who is also a specialist in treating malocclusions, or tooth, bite and jaw irregularities. An orthodontist can detect problems with the teeth and jaw growth before they turn into major issues.

Orthodontists can treat irregularities with tooth growth (overcrowding, gaps between teeth, overlapping teeth, et al), misaligned bite and uneven jaw growth using a variety of special techniques. Braces, aligners, lingual braces and dental appliances can help to correct tooth and jaw growth issues and then maintain these corrections over time.

One of the most important services an orthodontist can provide is to guide your children’s teeth into a straight, healthy smile that promotes self-confidence as well as good oral health.


How a Dentist, Endodontist and Orthodontist Work Together

A dentist, endodontist and orthodontist all have the same fundamental education and training in the anatomy of the mouth, jaw, face and neck and overall oral health. From there, each practitioner chooses an area of specialization. Your children’s dentist will be the practitioner you see most frequently initially. And will likely give you referrals to other specialists as needed. When your children are ready to receive orthodontic care, you may see your orthodontist every few months for the duration of the treatment for check-ups and then to maintain results.

You may not see an endodontist unless your dentist or your orthodontist detects an infection or some type of trauma to your children’s dental pulp and surrounding soft tissues and nerves. While visits to the endodontist tend to be rarer than for either a dentist or orthodontist, the endodontist plays a critical role in saving a tooth that is compromised.

When in doubt, always check with your children’s dentist for referrals to other oral health specialists as needed. Often, all three specialists will work together as a team to monitor your children’s overall oral health and ensure their incoming adult teeth grow in straight and healthy.

About Kinder Smiles

Dr. Darryl Engel is the founder and medical director of Kinder Smiles Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics. Dr. Engel is a board-certified pediatric dental specialist and a Diplomate for the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. A  distinction only a handful of specialists share nationwide.

Dr. Engel’s practice is focused on providing highly personalized care to children and special needs pediatric patients. The doctor is certified in pediatric sedation, which allows for less stressful in-office oral sedation where needed. Moreover leading orthodontist Dr Schulhof is also based in the New Jersey office, making a formidable team.

Schedule your consultation with Dr. Engel and see why we do what we do.


KinderSmiles Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics
400 Kinderkamack Rd.
Oradell, NJ 07649
Phone: 201-262-0211


Dentist, Endodontist or Orthodontist? {FACTS!}

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