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An orthodontist is a dentist who has pursued specialized training after dental
school to assist people with difficulties in the structure of their teeth, jaws or
mouth. Choosing a career as an orthodontist means having a passion for helping
people, a keen interest in anatomy and physical science, and analyzing
the alignment of teeth. The main requirement for an orthodontist is whether your
personality will suit the type of work expected. On a daily basis, you will evaluate
the dental problems of patients, involving technical and creative choices to improve
dental health. A person who enjoys working alone in a private practice, rather than in
a group practice, would do well in this field.
It all begins with an education in dentistry. A strong science background is
recommended when choosing a curriculum in undergraduate school. Classes
should include biology, chemistry and anatomy. Most patients will be children
and teens, so an interest in communication skills and an understanding of how
to calm someone is definitely an asset. It is essential to keep a high grade-point
average because the competition is fierce and only the most qualified students
are accepted into the advanced dental programs.
Dental schools require taking the Dental Acceptance Test in their junior year.
Recommendations are sometimes necessary depending on where you plan to
practice. Standard classes include local anesthesia, periodontology and
radiology. Anatomy classes are also a must. In the last years of dental school, a
student practices on patients in a clinical setting supervised by a licensed
Now qualified as a dentist, another two to four years is needed in order to qualify
as an orthodontist. The United States Dental Institute has an index of the
orthodontic courses in the curriculum. These include Diagnosis and Treatment
Planning, Straight Wire Technique, Cephalometrics, Straight Wire Technique,
TMJ courses, and Myofunctional Therapy. Descriptions are available on the
website. Check with the American Dental Association and the American Board of
Orthodontists to obtain additional certifications.
You are ready to hang up your license and qualifications to begin a career as an
orthodontist. Depending on the state, a postgraduate residency term and a
special state exam may be required. Licensing also varies state by state and
should be checked in advance.
As a practicing orthodontist, some of your daily tasks include:
Examining and diagnosing dental abnormalities, such as jaw development
and tooth position
Developing a treatment plan by studying medical or dental records,
pictures of face and teeth, X-rays and plaster models of teeth
Fitting and adjusting dental appliances regularly for proper functioning
Preparing records for diagnosis and treatment
Designing and making appliances, such as retainers, space maintainers,
and labial and lingual arch wires
Providing instructions to technical assistants and dental officers
Communicating and coordinating with other dental and medical services
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov),
as of May 2015, orthodontists earn a median annual salary around $187,000,
depending on location and previous experience. With a faster than average
growth nationwide of 18%, prospects remain very good for the next ten years.
By embracing new technology, today’s orthodontist is able to correct conditions
that were untreatable in the past generations. Every patient is a unique
challenge and if you are up to it, an orthodontia career of helping people feel
better and improving smiles may be the choice for you.