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Dentist vs. Odontologist — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on November 3, 2023
A dentist provides general oral health care; an odontologist specializes in the study of teeth structure, development, and diseases.
Dentist vs. Odontologist — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Dentist and Odontologist


Key Differences

A dentist is a healthcare professional qualified to practice dentistry, which encompasses the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases affecting the mouth, teeth, gums, and related areas. An odontologist, on the other hand, specializes further, often working within forensic science, focusing on the study of the structure, development, and abnormalities of teeth.
The work of a dentist is primarily focused on direct patient care, offering treatments such as fillings, crowns, bridges, and oral surgery. They provide routine care like cleanings and check-ups that maintain oral health. Odontologists, while they are trained dentists, typically work in a more research and investigative capacity, using their knowledge of teeth to contribute to legal cases and identify human remains.
Most patients interact with a dentist when they have toothaches, need cleanings, or require preventive care for oral health. A dentist also educates patients on how to take care of their teeth at home. Odontologists usually do not provide such care; instead, they might work in labs, analyzing dental evidence or conducting research on dental pathologies.
Dentists operate in clinics where they see a variety of patients for many types of oral health issues. They can run their own practice or work in group practices. Odontologists are often employed by organizations such as law enforcement, academic institutions, or government agencies, contributing their dental expertise to identify individuals or understand bite mark evidence, among other tasks.
Training for both dentists and odontologists begins with dental school, but odontologists pursue additional specialized training in dental science beyond that of general dentistry. This extra training prepares them for the unique roles they play in the field of forensic odontology or advanced academic research.

Comparison Chart

Primary Focus

General oral health care and treatment
Study of teeth structure and dental forensics

Work Environment

Dental clinics and hospitals
Labs, research institutions, legal contexts

Patient Interaction

Regular, direct patient care
Limited, mostly indirect through research or forensics

Educational Path

Dental school followed by clinical practice
Dental school followed by specialized training in dental science

Common Services

Fillings, extractions, cleanings, prosthetics
Teeth analysis, identification, research, expert testimony

Compare with Definitions


A medical expert in the maintenance of oral hygiene and tooth health.
The dentist advised me to floss daily to prevent gum disease.


A dentist with advanced training in the forensic study of teeth.
The odontologist helped identify the victim through dental records.


A professional who treats diseases and conditions of the mouth.
I visit my dentist twice a year for routine check-ups.


A specialist in understanding the structure and diseases of teeth for legal investigations.
An odontologist testified about the bite marks presented in court.


One who diagnoses and treats tooth, gum, and mouth diseases.
Our family dentist is excellent with children.


A professional who applies dental science to legal cases.
The odontologist analyzed dental evidence from the crime scene.


A certified practitioner of dentistry providing oral health care.
The dentist filled three cavities for me today.


An expert in teeth who assists in the identification of remains.
Thanks to the odontologist, the remains from the excavation site were identified.


A dentist, also known as a dental surgeon, is a medical professional who specializes in dentistry, the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions of the oral cavity. The dentist's supporting team aids in providing oral health services.


A researcher in dental pathology and anatomy.
The odontologist published a paper on the genetic markers of dental anomalies.


A person who is qualified to treat diseases and other conditions that affect the teeth and gums, especially the repair and extraction of teeth and the insertion of artificial ones
A leather dentist's chair
His mouth is still sore from his visit to the dentist's


The study of the structure, development, and abnormalities of the teeth.


A person who is trained and licensed to practice dentistry.


One who studies teeth.


A medical doctor who specializes in dentistry.


One whose business it is to clean, extract, or repair natural teeth, and to make and insert artificial ones; a dental surgeon.


A person qualified to practice dentistry


A healthcare provider who performs dental surgeries and procedures.
The dentist performed a root canal on my infected tooth.

Common Curiosities

What does a dentist do?

A dentist diagnoses, treats, and prevents oral health problems.

What is an odontologist?

An odontologist is a dentist specialized in the study of teeth, particularly for legal or research purposes.

Can a dentist provide orthodontic treatment?

Yes, if they have the necessary training; otherwise, they would refer you to an orthodontist.

How does one become an odontologist?

One must first become a dentist and then undergo further specialized training.

Are odontologists involved in teeth whitening?

No, teeth whitening is typically performed by a general dentist or a cosmetic dentist.

Can dentists prescribe medication?

Yes, dentists can prescribe medication related to dental treatments.

Do odontologists perform dental procedures?

They usually focus on research or forensics rather than routine dental procedures.

What does an odontologist do with dental records?

They analyze them for patient identification or to match bite marks in forensic cases.

Do I need to see an odontologist for a toothache?

No, a general dentist can treat toothaches.

Do odontologists work with law enforcement?

Yes, they often work with law enforcement for identification purposes.

Is dental school different for odontologists?

The initial dental school is the same, but odontologists pursue additional training.

How often should I visit a dentist?

Generally, every six months for a check-up and cleaning.

Can a dentist give me a smile makeover?

Yes, many dentists offer cosmetic procedures for smile enhancements.

Do all dentists perform surgeries?

Some complex surgeries may require an oral surgeon, a dentist with specialized surgical training.

When would I need an odontologist?

You might need an odontologist if dental expertise is required for legal matters.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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