Are orthodontists different to dentists?

Orthodontists are dentists, but dentists aren’t orthodontists. Confused? You’re not alone. In the UK, both dentists and orthodontists can provide teeth straightening treatments, so it’s not surprising that some patients believe they’re equally qualified.

Specialists in teeth straightening

Specialist orthodontists are teeth straightening experts. After qualifying as dentists, they’ve chosen to focus on orthodontics full time.

Most orthodontists gain experience in different areas of dentistry, before deciding to specialise. Other dental specialities include periodontics (gums), endodontics (root canals) and paediatric dentistry (children).

Specialist orthodontic training involves three years of full-time study, including theory and hands-on experience. It’s a competitive course, with several dentists applying for each spot.

Trainee orthodontists encounter a wide range of patients and conditions, including some of the most complex and challenging cases. They also gain valuable experience using a variety of appliances, including fixed and removable braces.

At the end of their training, budding orthodontists go through a rigorous exam process to gain Membership in Orthodontics from the Royal College of Surgeons and a Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training. These qualifications allow them to register as specialist orthodontists with the General Dental Council.

Meet our orthodontist

Our specialist orthodontist Iain Hoeltschi graduated as a dentist from King’s College Hospital in 1991. He went on to gain experience in maxillofacial surgery, restorative dentistry, periodontics and child dental health, before starting his specialist training.

Iain studied orthodontics at the Eastman Dental Hospital in London, where he was awarded a Master of Science degree and Membership in Orthodontics from the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Before establishing Splash Orthodontics in 2012, Iain worked in Sydney as a registrar and more recently for a specialist orthodontic group in Sussex and Kent.

To retain his specialist status, Iain attends regular training events to sharpen his skills and keep on top of the latest research and developments.

Can dentists straighten teeth?

Some dentists choose not to specialise and continue to provide a range of general dental treatments such as check-ups and fillings. They can also offer specialist treatments within their abilities, including orthodontic treatment.

Specialist training is the holy grail for orthodontists, but there are other courses available. Some of these are very comprehensive. While others show dentists how to treat straightforward cases using clear aligners within just a few days.

Dentists who offer orthodontic treatments can’t call themselves specialist orthodontists. Instead, they can be recognised as dentists with a special interest in orthodontics (DwSI). Dentists with a special interest must demonstrate a minimum level of competency in orthodontics.

Most dentists who provide orthodontic treatment do so to an excellent standard. They assess cases carefully, and if something is too complicated, they refer the patient to a specialist colleague.

Teeth straightening without supervision

Mail-order braces are a significant cause for concern among orthodontists and dentists. They’re convenient and cost-effective, but your treatment will be almost entirely unsupervised.

Read our recent blog to learn more about the pitfalls of mail-order braces.

What are the benefits of seeing a specialist?

  • Our experience and expertise is unrivalled
  • We’re up to date with the latest braces and techniques
  • Our practice is dedicated to providing orthodontic treatment
  • We treat a wide range of conditions, including highly complex cases
  • We invest in cutting edge technology and equipment
  • We include aftercare as standard for long-lasting results

To check if your orthodontist is a specialist, visit To arrange a free consultation with our specialist orthodontist Iain Hoeltschi, call 01273 203514 or fill out our contact form.

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