20 years ago, hardly any general dentists did orthodontics or teeth straightening, and would have referred their patients to see a specialist in orthodontics. That has changed as many orthodontic systems are now very user friendly and can be learnt over a weekend training program. Dentists are usually familiar with 1 or maybe 2 systems and will generally take more straightforward cases. While levels of experience will vary between dentists, most will only do handful of cases per year, mixed in with all the other types of treatment they do such as crowns, fillings, and root canals.
A specialist orthodontist would have started out as a general dentist after doing the 5-year dental training but will have had to spend a minimum of 3 additional years at university dedicated to learning the speciality of orthodontics. After this, an orthodontist may join the GDC’s specialist register and will spend all their time straightening teeth with different kinds of braces. Typically, an orthodontist will treat between 200 and 500 patients a year and will quickly build up experience and expertise in this area of dentistry.
An orthodontist will also be very familiar with multiple systems and types of braces. This gives them the freedom to mix and match and may be willing to take on much more complex treatments with appliances such as Invisalign, knowing that they have other options available to them.