Dentist? Orthodontist? Aren't they the same thing? There might be a bit of confusion concerning the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist, so I wrote a number of articles to describe things. This fourth article outlines a few of the technical and legal aspects of the person calling themselves an orthodontist, with particular reference to the united kingdom and Ireland.
In the first article, I explained that orthodontists are dentists that concentrate their activity in one area of dentistry. In the second, we checked out the different special areas of dentistry and the particular stuff that an orthodontist would focus on. The third looked at the regulating dentistry, which article looks at the regulating orthodontics and the utilisation of the description "orthodontist".
All orthodontists are dentists, first and foremost, and therefore are regulated by an organisation which is setup by government to supervise the laws associated with dentistry - they would be considered a "competent body" in legal terms, and broadly speaking, they're there to safeguard the very best interests of the public, not the dentists. They see that dentists have achieved the absolute minimum standard of skill and knowledge, and investigate claims that they aren't conducting the work they do (or their behaviour generally) to an acceptable standard in various areas.
In the UK, this is the General Dental Council as well as in Ireland, this is The Dental Council.
For the practice of orthodontics, as with most other parts of dentistry, any dentist can perform it as being long because they are an authorized dentist, and their name appears around the "Dental Register". These dental councils also operate a number of "special registers" with the names of dentists that they say is specialists inside a particular section of dentistry. In Ireland there's two specialist registers, in the united kingdom there are 13. One of these simple would be the "Specialist Register of Orthodontists".
If your dentist's name is included in this specialist register, they have satisfied their dental council they have a competency and knowledge of orthodontics that entitles them to call themselves an "orthodontist" or a "specialist in orthodontics". They can still call themselves "dentist" and "dental surgeon".
The Dental Council (of Ireland) summarises its code of practice for dentists in communications and public relations and includes these tips: "Registered practitioners not registered within the Register of Dental Specialists maintained through the Dental Council shall not use any kind of words that may reasonably be interpreted with a member of the general public to convey that the practitioner is practicing like a specialist."
If a dentist's name isn't on a specialist list, then effectively their dental council doesn't confirm that they've anymore skill in orthodontics than every other section of dentistry. They may be very good at orthodontics, but there's no standardised register or any other way of making this distinction. Some dentists might do nothing at all else aside from orthodontics (sometimes they may describe themselves as "limited to orthodontics"), and they could even have orthodontic qualifications from the university, but they can't call themselves an "orthodontist" or a "specialist" when they aren't out there.