Dentist vs Orthodontist: Why Choose an Orthodontist over a Dentist?

Co-written by Karen, Treatment Coordinator at Lippitz Orthodontics, and Tracy Stout at BrilliantDoc. Fact Checked by Stefen Lippitz, DDS, MS. Published on March 28, 2024.

Choosing between a dentist and an orthodontist is pivotal for specialized oral care. While dentists provide broad dental services, orthodontists undergo extensive, additional training that focuses solely on orthodontic treatment beyond general dental education. This specialization ensures that your smile is not just treated, but transformed with precision and expertise. Understand why our top-rated orthodontist at Lippitz Orthodontics, in Northbrook, Chicago, and Glencoe, are the preferred choice over general dentists for specific dental needs, making an informed decision critical for your oral health.

Group of friends who showing off their new smiles following orthodontic treatment

Difference in Education

Both general dentists and orthodontists complete a program at an accredited 4-year dental school after college. An orthodontist goes on to specialize with another two-three years of intense training and education and must complete a residency in orthodontics. Dr. Lippitz matched at the prestigious School of Orthodontics at Iowa and graduated at the top of his class as a Licensed Specialist in Dentistry and with a Masters degree in Orthodontics. His Master’s work was published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Denotficaol Orthopedics.

Dr Stefen Lippitz smiles at a patient

Difference in Training

Dr. Lippitz has far more training than a general dentist – 3,600 more hours of schooling! This demanding program of advanced discipline focuses on diagnosis and treatment of the many types of improper bites and skeletal issues encompassed by orthodontics.  It is important to know that unless the provider is a licensed orthodontist it is likely, they have minimal to no training in the field. In fact, they may have only attended a weekend course.

Dr. Stefen Lippitz discusses treatment with his patient

Difference in Experience

General dentists provide braces as a sideline to their regular practice, which means they can never attain the mastery level of competence that practicing orthodontists – who reinforce their skills every day – are able to achieve. Dr. Lippitz has practiced orthodontics for over 28 years. Not only that, but his beloved grandfather was a dentist who saw patients until he was 92 and his father, Dr. Herbert Lippitz, was an accomplished orthodontist until he was 80. Dr. Stefen has treated over 15,000 patients!

Doctor Lippitz examines a young patient at Lippitz Orthodontics

Comprehensive Approach to Orthodontics

Most people think orthodontics is about straight teeth. For Dr. Lippitz, it is much more than that. At the initial consultation, Dr. Lippitz evaluates not just the teeth but the relationship between the gums, jaw joints, facial aesthetics and surrounding oral and maxillofacial structures.  These all work in concert for optimal oral health. Dr. Lippitz knows that if your bite function is improved and your jaw joints are aligned as completely as possible, the beautiful smile is a bonus!

Young patients laugh in the Lippitz Orthodontics lobby

Where’s the Value

The least costly job is the one done right the first time! Dr. Lippitz lives by these words. Orthodontic treatment is an investment. Choosing a provider with extensive knowledge, experience, skill and training may cost a little more up front but save big on cost and worry in the future. Orthodontic work done incorrectly or incompletely often results in the need for further treatment later in life. In the long run, this can multiply your costs several-fold.

Dr Lippitz meets with a patient

Expert in the Field

“One does well, what one does often”. General dentists are trained in placing fillings, crowns, bridges and other treatments in restorative dentistry. They are well versed in prevention and help you maintain healthy teeth for your whole life. They may refer you to an endodontist if you need a root canal, a periodontist if you have gum issues, an oral surgeon for extractions. Why then, would they not refer you to an orthodontist for straightening teeth? When in treatment with Dr. Lippitz, he would never ask you to stop seeing your dentist.  On the contrary, he encourages you to keep all scheduled cleanings and exams.

Dr Lippitz shows patient iTero teeth scan and plan for tooth movement

The Latest Technology

The field of orthodontics is constantly evolving and Dr. Lippitz is committed to staying on top of every innovation. He regularly attends a study club with other highly accredited orthodontists from the Midwest, in addition to continuing education classes.


Is it better to see a dentist or an orthodontist?

Choosing between a dentist and an orthodontist depends on your specific oral health needs:

  • General Dental Care: If you need routine check-ups, teeth cleaning, or treatment for tooth decay or gum disease, a general dentist is suitable.
  • Specialized Orthodontic Care: For issues like crooked teeth, improper bites, or jaw alignment, an orthodontist is the better choice. Orthodontists, like Dr. Lippitz at Lippitz Orthodontics, offer specialized treatments including braces and aligners, building on their extensive education beyond dental school.

Is an orthodontist more expensive than a dentist?

While the cost varies based on treatment:

  • Initial Costs: General dentist services (e.g., cleaning, fillings) typically cost less upfront than specialized orthodontic treatments.
  • Long-term Value: Orthodontic treatments, while potentially higher in initial cost, provide significant long-term value. They address complex issues, potentially reducing future dental costs. Specialized care from orthodontists like Dr. Lippitz ensures lasting oral health, making it a worthwhile investment.

We hope this information has helped show the significant differences between choosing an orthodontist like Dr. Lippitz over a general dentist for your orthodontic needs. At Lippitz Orthodontics, we’re not just committed to perfecting smiles; we’re dedicated to enhancing your overall oral health with the precision and care that only years of specialized training and experience can offer.

If you’re considering orthodontic treatment and are looking for a practice that combines a warm, welcoming environment with cutting-edge technology and unparalleled expertise, we invite you to take the first step towards a brighter, more confident smile.

Contact us today for a free orthodontic consultation at our Northbrook, Chicago, or Glencoe locations. Discover firsthand how our specialized care can make a significant difference in your life and smile. Let’s embark on this transformative journey together – your perfect smile awaits!

Orthodontist Dr Stefen Lippitz of Lippitz Orthodontics serves greater Chicago

About the Author

Dr. Stefen Lippitz is a respected orthodontist who practices in Chicago, Northbrook and Glencoe. With over 25 years of experience treating over 15,000 patients, Dr. Lippitz specializes in creating smiles that boost his patients’ confidence. He earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Illinois Chicago and holds a Master of Science in Orthodontics from the University of Iowa. Dr. Lippitz’ dedication to his field is evident through his pursuit of knowledge actively engaging with the PRIMUS Study Group and sharing his expertise as a lecturer at his alma mater. Inspired by his father’s career in orthodontics, Dr. Lippitz is truly passionate about improving the well-being of his patients.

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7070 N. Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60645

(773) 508-5588

1500 Shermer Rd. #100
Northbrook, IL 60062

(847) 562-8858

650 Vernon Ave
Glencoe, IL 60022

(847) 835-3200