Learning how to become an orthodontist might lead you to the rewarding career you desire. It doesn’t matter the type of background you’re coming from, knowing the steps will help you enter this career.
An orthodontist is someone that works to help prevent and treat facial and dental irregularities. This is a very important medical profession. If you’re considering becoming an orthodontist, discovering the job duties and how to become an orthodontist will help.
Job Duties of an Orthodontist
As an orthodontist, your main job duties will be straightening misaligned teeth. You will also work on other issues, such as excess teeth, misaligned bites, and esthetic issues. Some of the most common treatments used by orthodontists include:
- Headgear or facemasks – It’s common to use headgear or a facemask with braces to help correct an overbite or underbite.
- Braces – The most commonly used treatment is braces. This type of treatment is used to slowly align the teeth. Brackets are placed on each tooth with an archwire to connect them.
- Retainers – With a retainer, the teeth can be kept in the realigned position. This is usually done until the bone solidifies to hold the teeth in place.
Along with administering these treatments, your job duties as an orthodontist will likely include:
- Consulting with patients about dental issues
- Diagnosing patient’s dental issues
- Treating the issues of your patients
- Tracking the progress of your patients
- Teaching patients about good oral health habits
These job duties will likely all be a part of your job if you become an orthodontist.
How to Become an Orthodontist in 8 Steps
Step #1 – Finish High School
Since you will need to go through dental school, you will need to do very well in high school. A high GPA, along with high SAT and ACT scores can help you get into a top bachelor’s degree program. Also, consider taking AP or honors courses, especially in math and science.
Step #2 – Complete Your Bachelor’s Degree
You will need to complete a bachelor’s degree to get into an orthodontics graduate school. A science background is commonly required. It’s best to get a degree in some type of science-related area, such as chemistry or biology.
Step #3 – Score High on the Dental Admission Test
You will need to get a high score on the dental admission test. This test is necessary to get into an accredited dental school. It’s given by the American Dental Association and a high score can help you get into a better dental school.
The test covers four areas including:
- Perceptual ability – You will need to complete six problem sets that will evaluate your ability to perceive three-dimensional areas.
- Quantitative reasoning – This section of the test will test your mathematics skills and critical thinking
- Survey of the natural sciences – This section will include 40 biology questions, 30 organic chemistry questions, and 30 general chemistry questions
- Reading comprehension – You will need to read three academic essays and answer 50 questions about the content of the essays.
Make sure you are well-prepared for the Dental Admission Test.
Step #4 – Complete Dental School
Before you can become an orthodontist, you will need to become a dentist. Your Dental Admission Test and college GPA will help determine whether or not you get into dental school. Most schools also ask for letters of recommendation, previous dental field experience, and a personal statement.
The first two years of dental school will be spent in the classroom. The second two years will be spent learning procedures under the supervision of licensed dentists. After four years, you will graduate with a Doctor of Dental Medicine or Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.
Step #5 – Get Your Dental License
After you have completed dental school, you will need to pass the National Board Dental Examination to get your license. This is a two-part exam taken over three days.
The first part will include 400 multiple choice questions covering many areas of science. The second part will focus on areas having more to do with dentistry.
Step #6 – Complete Your Orthodontics Residency
After you have become a licensed dentist, you will need to complete an orthodontics residency. This will take two or three years to complete. If you complete a three-year program, you will likely gain a master’s degree in orthodontics, as well.
Step #7 – Get your Orthodontist License
Once you’ve completed your residency, you can sit for the state clinical tests. Passing these tests will allow you to become an orthodontist.
If you want to showcase your expertise to patients, you can become certified by the American Board of Orthodontics. This requires you to pass a clinical and written test. These tests will need to be retaken every ten years.
Necessary Skills for an Orthodontist
If you want to be a successful orthodontist, you will need the right education and training. It’s also important to work on the right skills including:
- Problem Solving – You will need to solve issues for your patients. Diagnosing problems and coming up with treatment plans is a big part of the job.
- Organizational Skills – Keeping several patient records and coming up with different treatment plans requires organizational skills.
- Attention to Detail – When working with patients, you need to be able to identify the dental issues they are suffering from. This may require close attention to detail.
- Patience – You will need to remain patient with treatments, as they can take several hours to complete.
- Communication Skills – Of course, you will need to communicate with patients and your support staff. This is vital if you want to be successful as an orthodontist.
Working on these skills, while going through the schooling process, will help you find success in this career.
Frequently Asked Questions About Being an Orthodontist
How much can I make as an orthodontist?
The average salary can vary based on experience level, location, and employer. However, Indeed.com puts the average yearly salary for an orthodontist at about $317K per year.
Little Rock and Tucson are the highest-paying locations in the United States. You can also earn a high salary in Indianapolis, Phoenix, or Fort Wayne.
What type of benefits will I get as an orthodontist?
When you work as an orthodontist for an employer, you will likely receive a very nice benefits package. It will probably include health, vision, dental, disability, and AD&D insurance. Most orthodontists will also receive paid time off and a 401(k). It’s also possible that you will receive license reimbursement, loan assistance, vista sponsorship, or even green card sponsorship.
What type of work environment is common for an orthodontist?
You will likely work in a specially equipped office. It’s common to use an x-ray machine, bonding and bracketing products, and dental model materials on a daily basis. Most orthodontists spend time wearing protective eyewear, face masks, and latex gloves.
What type of hours will I work as an orthodontist?
Regular business hours are pretty common with a nine-to-five type of schedule. Orthodontists will work full time, about 40 hours per week. you may work some weekend or evening hours to accommodate the schedules of your patients.
Where will I work as an orthodontist?
It’s common for orthodontists to work in a private practice. Many are self-employed and get to set their own hours and control their income.
Orthodontists may also work for a business or organization that employs orthodontists. You may still set your own schedule, in this scenario, but you will likely be paid a salary. This could be a dentist’s office or clinic.
Some orthodontists will work for health organizations or hospitals. In this case, you will likely have a set schedule and a salary.
Will I perform surgery as an orthodontist?
It’s not common for orthodontists to perform surgery. If a patient needs surgery, it’s more likely you will refer them to an oral surgeon. Only corrective treatments are performed by orthodontists.
What is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?
Commonly, an orthodontist is also trained as a dentist. While these are similar careers, an orthodontist has a special advanced education. As an orthodontist, you will focus on teeth straightness and correcting bite issues.
Dentists, on the other hand, tend to perform general dental treatments and cleanings. An orthodontist won’t generally perform these types of treatments, but they may, since they are trained as a dentist, as well.
Finding the right career for you isn’t always easy. If you want to become an orthodontist, you can use the steps outlined above. This is a very rewarding career that allows you to help people and earn a high salary.
Whether you’re in high school or college, making the decision to become an orthodontist is a big step. You will need the right education and training to enter this career. Make sure you’re ready for this type of commitment before you head down this career path.