How to become an Orthodontist
Orthodontist Job Details
Skills and Qualities Needed to Become an Orthodontist
Orthodontist Salary
Influential Professionals in the Orthodontist Field
Leading Organizations for Orthodontists
Top Cities for Orthodontist Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become an Orthodontist

In order to become an orthodontist, prospective students must first become licensed to practice as a dentist. There are over 56 dental schools in the United States that are accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA).

Dental schools require a minimum pre-requisite of 2 years at college prior to admission into an accredited orthodontic program. Since only 67 programs exist in the United States and Canada, admission into dental school is competitive and all applicants are required to take a Dental Admissions Test (DAT). This score in conjunction with a student's grade point average (GPA) becomes a high criterion in the selection of prospective students.

Recommended courses for high school and college include a concentration on the sciences such as biology, physics, chemistry plus mathematics. At dental school students should expect to spend many hours in the classroom studying the sciences with the addition of anatomy, microbiology and biochemistry. This is followed by working in the laboratory learning techniques and then treating patients while being supervised by a licensed dentist.

After 4 successful years at an accredited dental school, students will be awarded either a degree as a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or the equivalent as a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD).

In order to become an orthodontist, an additional 2-5 years of schooling will be required in the science of orthodontics plus a 2-3 year residency at an ADA approved program.

After spending 8 years pursuing education after high school, only 11 percent of new dental graduates go on to pursue a career in a dental specialty while the majority immediately open a private practice of their own. Some graduates choose to work for an established dentist for a few years in order to gain experience and to save money for a future private practice.

What does an Orthodontist do?

In general, an orthodontist examines, diagnoses and treats dental problems.

This involves straightening and realigning teeth by applying pressure with braces. An orthodontist treats malocclusions (improper bites) and practices dentofacial orthopedics (guiding facial development).

In many cases, the reason for treatment can be purely aesthetic - to improve the appearance of the patient's teeth - but can sometimes be more of a necessity if the problem is a jaw alignment or related issue.

As an orthodontist you will be able to adapt your practice to fit your lifestyle. You could choose to practice as a solo practitioner but could also establish a business with a partner. This allows each associate to enjoy a shorter work week but many orthodontists work weekends and evenings as a high volume of patients are still attending high school during the weekdays. Treating these high school aged patients can be very rewarding - as their smile changes, so does their self confidence.

What skills or qualities do I need to become an Orthodontist?

Becoming an orthodontist requires excellent interpersonal skills and manual dexterity. An orthodontist should have diagnostic ability and judgement which involves having good visual memory in regards to space, shapes and colors.

An orthodontist needs to be a team player yet be able to manage their own business in the case of a private practice situation. This may include management skills, dealing with employees on all levels including hiring, firing and training, along with possessing leadership skills in order to motivate and develop the team.

Other skills required to be an orthodontist include being able to multi-task, work in pressure situations, be a quick thinker with a great attention to detail along with being committed to learning and continuous skill development.

A true desire to help people and enjoyment of working with others will help lead to a successful career in orthodontics.

How much does an Orthodontist make?

An orthodontist, like any other professional, makes different salaries depending upon their place of employment, geographical area and applicable skills. It would also make a difference in salary if an orthodontist was employed by another or was self-employed.

The median salary for an Orthodontist in the United States is currently $140,850 annually. The middle 50 percent of American orthodontists made between $104,124 and $177,575 in the same year. These salary figures do not include bonuses and benefits such as social security, 401k, disability, healthcare and pension.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Dr. Robert M. Ricketts (1920-2003) was an orthodontist that developed several cutting edge orthodontic products as well as having written numerous articles for dental publications.

Dr. Edward H. Angle (1855-1930) was also a very influential professional in the field of orthodontics. He devised the classification system for dental malocclusions that is still in use today. Dr. Angle also developed many orthodontic appliances and founded the first college for orthodontia and the American Society of Orthodontia back in 1901.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) was established in 1900 in St. Louis Missouri. Today the association has 15,000 members in the United States, Canada and abroad that are dedicated to providing orthodontic treatment to over 4 million children and 1 million adults in the United States and Canada.

The World Federation of Orthodontists (WFO) is dedicated to ensuring high standards for both training and practicing orthodontists as well as promoting research in the field. The WFO was formed in San Francisco in 1995 and is comprised of 106 organizations in 103 countries along with 6,800 orthodontists who have become members.

What are the top cities for Orthodontist jobs?

There are currently 9,200 orthodontists in practice in the United States as compared to 136,000 general dentists. From these figures, it's easy to tell that orthodontics is a very specialized practice being comprised of only 7% of the total dental workforce.

Orthodontists from the baby-boomer generation will soon be reaching retirement age and there will be many jobs for younger orthodontists to take over the work or practices from retiring orthodontists.

The employment of orthodontists is expected to grow by 9%, from 9,200 to 10,000, by the year 2016. Job prospects for orthodontists should be good as the demand for orthodontic treatments have become increasingly popular. It is now more widely accepted to wear braces even as an adult.

The states of California, Arizona, Texas and Florida consistently have a high demand for orthodontists while the cities of Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston and Miami are hot spots.

Other Careers of Interest

Dental Assistant
Dental assistants perform a variety of patient care, office, and laboratory tasks while working closely with dentists and patients. Dental assistants...

Dental Hygienist
Dental hygienists work with the dentist to provide educational, clinical and therapeutic services to dental patients. Their main focus is preventive...

Dental Technician
Dental laboratory technicians create crowns, bridges, dentures and other dental prosthetics. They may also manufacture dental appliances designed...

Dentists diagnose and treat problems with teeth and mouth tissues. They also advise patients on oral care in an attempt to prevent future problems....

Pediatric Dentist
One of nine recognized specialties within the profession of dentistry, the pediatric dentist provides preventative and therapeutic care to minors,...

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