How to Become an Orthodontist

Have you ever wondered how braces work? Have you ever pondered about what it took for your orthodontist to get to where there are? You may have even enjoyed spending the time with your orthodontist and wondered if this was a career choice for you. As an orthodontist, your career can be very rewarding and fulfilling. If you feel that you up for the challenge and want to assist people in feeling better about the way their teeth look, becoming an orthodontist may be the right choice for you. However, be mindful that it does take dedication and more than just four years of school, it can lead to the possibility of discovering a fast-paced career with countless benefits. In 2016, orthodontics was ranked as the best career in the U.S. with some practitioners bringing in over $100/hr.  To get an idea of how much money you can make as an orthodontist, take a look at this view a salary comparison.


Like most professions, orthodontists must start their studies early planning out their path strategically. The first thing you must do is to choose a major in college/university. This major should resemble something science-related, whether in chemistry, biology, or physics, which is highly recommended when planning to be an orthodontist. Once you are coming close to finishing your time at college, you will need to apply for dental school. Successful applicants will then continue their education on their path to a full-time career in orthodontistry.

It is worth noting that during your path to getting into the dental school of your choice, you must complete the DAT (Dental Admissions Test) which is the exam needed to get into Dental School. You are allowed to take this exam up to 3 times, waiting 90 days in between each try if you are unsuccessful. This also applies to students who would like to retake the exam to give themselves a better score moving forward,

Once you are granted admission, you can expect your time at dental school to take four years of full-time study to complete. It will provide you the chance to earn either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDF) degree or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. The first couple of years in dental school are typically spent learning general dental sciences filled with coursework and class time with a professor. Your last two years are geared towards more of a practical approach, during this time you will be introduced to working with patients and getting familiar with your role as a professional doctor. Once you have completed all your necessary education in dental school you will need to do a postgraduate orthodontics program. Most of these postgraduate programs last about three years and is the final step in your journey to becoming an orthodontist. This program will teach you about the movement of teeth, how to work with braces, and how teeth affect the entire face.

Skills and Competencies

As already mentioned, orthodontists require to pass dental school, however, unlike general dentist they are more specialized due to the extra training they must go through. This extra training will allow them to acquire the skills necessary for becoming a certified orthodontist.

An orthodontist must have great attention to detail. Failing to notice a valuable piece of information in a patient’s history could have a severe impact on the patient. As an orthodontist keeping aware of all your patient’s dental and medical history is crucial to have success.

It is common for the general public to identify orthodontic specialist as someone who only deals with braces. However, not all orthodontic solutions incorporate the use of braces. In orthodontistry, they refer to these instruments as “dental appliances’. These “appliances” are used for all corrective instruments applied that covers all parts in and around the mouth to improve a patient’s well-being. In conjunction with prescribing braces, orthodontists frequently use mouth guards, retainers, and many other dental appliances to achieve their work.

Diagnoses and monitoring is another invaluable skill that orthodontists are required to use. When a patient comes to see an orthodontist it is usually due to a recommendation of a dentist or a chiropractor. It typically means that there is some sort of issue in the patient’s mouth or jaw, that is beyond the knowledge or expertise of the general practitioner. As an orthodontist, you will be often required to address multiple symptoms at one time once the other professionals have been unsuccessful in solving the issue. In some cases, the problem does not always present itself for an immediate solution, and the patient is therefore needed to be monitored once an attempt at treatment is made.


Being employed as an orthodontist can have its benefits. Most Orthodontists can have a great work-life balance. Most orthodontists generally have all pre-scheduled appointments which mean they tend to work standard business hours. They rarely are required to be “on-call” to assist in emergency situations. This will usually leave them to have the evening and weekends open.

Depending on the amount of time you are putting as an orthodontist, the salary will vary. In the United States, depending on the state you are working in, you can expect the lower part of salaries to range around the $75,000 a year mark. While on the higher side, orthodontists can look at making $200,000 a year or more.

Development of Career

Whether you are an orthodontist in a small town or someone who strives to be a recognized name in the industry, orthodontics provides a vast range of opportunities both professionally and monetarily. If you work hard and become distinguished, whether in your small town or large city you can expect to be able to do the following with your career:

Speak at industry conferences

Participate in research projects

Be a mentor for students around the world

Become a guest lecturer at recognized universities and colleges worldwide

Publish books, online articles, magazine articles and other forms of medical literature

All these are a possibility if you are interested in receiving your certification, working hard, and providing outstanding care to your patients.

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