Choosing a Career as an Orthodontist

Making People Smile as an Orthodontist.

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 (,

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.