Orthodontics vs Dentofacial Orthopedics

There are twelve different dental specialties that are recognized by the National Commission. Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics is one of them. Though these two are categorized together, there are slight differences between the two. However, the goal is the same: to correct malocclusion and neuromuscular and skeletal abnormalities. 

In this blog, we go into depth about the differences and similarities between these two orthodontic services. 


You are most likely familiar with orthodontics. In fact, more than 4 million people in the United States have braces. To provide a deeper understanding of orthodontics, let’s break down the word:  “Ortho” means “straight” and “dontics” means “a relation of teeth”. 

Orthodontists use braces or aligners to align teeth that may be crooked, crowded, or gapped. Braces can also help with bite issues like an overbite, underbite, or crossbite. Correcting any of these issues provides the patient with their desired smile and reduces tooth damage and other oral health issues.

Orthodontic treatment can begin as early as age nine and there is no age limit. However, it is recommended that a person wear braces as early as possible to reduce their risk of oral health issues and provide a confidence boost that could significantly impact their lives! 

Here are a few common orthodontic treatments: 

Traditional Braces

Traditional braces are a combination of brackets, bands, and wires that move teeth into their proper positions. These may be metal braces or ceramic (clear) braces. 

Clear Aligners

Instead of brackets and wires, clear aligners use strong and durable plastic to shift teeth. Clear aligners are more comfortable, less noticeable, and just as effective as traditional braces. However, they aren’t right for everyone. 

There are many popular brands of clear aligners, but Orthosnap surpasses them all. Learn more about our clear aligner system here. 


After braces or clear aligner treatment, the patient will need to wear a retainer. This is a custom oral appliance that holds the teeth in their new positions. Some patients need to wear their retainers all day, every day for a period of time; others may only need to wear their retainers at night. A permanent retainer may also be cemented to the back of the front or bottom arches. 

Benefits of Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontic treatment offers several oral, systemic, and mental health benefits: 

  • Straight teeth are much easier to clean, so the patient has a lower risk of developing cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and other oral health issues. 
  • Straightening your teeth can improve your ability to chew and speak properly. 
  • Braces or clear aligners can ease jaw pain, teeth grinding, and other symptoms caused by TMJ disorder. 
  • People with straight teeth have more beautiful smiles, helping them feel more confident and be percieved as more capable, successful, and happy. 

Dentofacial Orthopedics

Dentofacial orthopedics helps address facial growth and development issues. An orthodontist may recommend dentofacial orthopedics treatment if you have an underdeveloped lower jaw, malocclusions, protrusions of upper teeth, overbite, or crossbite. To address these issues, the patient may need headgear or spacers before or in conjunction with conventional braces. 

Dentofacial orthopedic surgery is recommended as early as age eight. At that age, primary teeth and mature teeth exist simultaneously. The jaw bone may be more malleable when a patient’s facial structure is young and will respond well to the treatment. If these misalignment issues remain uncorrected, they will need correction in adults. 

Rather than appliances, adults may need surgery to correct their face or jaw issues. This is why it is best to address any problems early on in a person’s life. 


Some common appliances used by these dental professionals to change the rate, direction, or amount of jaw growth include: 

  1. Palate expander: a fixed device that wides the maxilla by pushing on the cartilage above the upper jaw
  2. Lower jaw expander: gradually moves the bottom teeth apart 
  3. Activators: guides erupting teeth while moving the upper or lower jaw forward
  4. Block: uses bite force to gradually move teeth
  5. Headgear: an appliance that straps around the face and applies force to the jaw and head

Dentofacial Orthopedics Benefits

Dentofacial orthopedics treatments offer much of the same benefits as orthodontic treatments because they often serve the same purpose: straight teeth for a lifetime. However, for some patients, these treatments can improve orthodontic outcomes. 

In Summary: Orthodontic and Dentofacial Orthopedics Similarities and Differences


Aside from being a dental specialty, these two services work to correct dental arches and alignment by addressing abnormal facial and dental structures. Both orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics require advanced education, practice, and research, which is why they are recognized dental specialties. 


The main difference between these two services is their treatment methods and the issues they address. 

Orthodontic treatments aim to straighten teeth and include: 

  • Traditional braces
  • Clear aligners
  • Retainers

Dentofacial orthopedics addresses facial growth and development issues and includes these treatments: 

  • Palate expander
  • Lower jaw expander
  • Activators
  • Block
  • Headgear

Learn More About Becoming an Orthosnap Partner

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Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to expand your dental practice. Contact our team today at (516) 506-7606 or conveniently online to learn more.