Becoming an Orthodontist

Though you have likely heard of the occupation “orthodontist,” it is likely that you aren’t aware of just what sort of credentials that position entails. To put it simply, orthodontists are dentists who go through additional education and training to be able to align jaws and teeth. In the medical profession, all doctors will undergo basic training, and afterward, they pick a specialty to become experts in their fields.

Your primary care doctor takes care of your overall well-being. You see them first and foremost for general checkups, and they are usually who you go to if you experience a health problem. If this problem needs specific attention, they will refer you to a doctor whose specialty lies in that field. In a similar vein, a general dentist presides over your general, basic oral health, and you go there for checkups, x-rays and routine cleanings. If you have problems that go past the basics, they will refer you to the appropriate specialist. Your dentist will usually be the one to send you to an orthodontist if you have issues with your bite or alignment.

If you’re curious about what it takes to become an orthodontist, it is a field that is in need of professionals. Only six percent of dentists pursue this particular field, which requires upward of three years of training after undergoing dental school and at least a decade of both college and post-grad work.

Dental School

Before you start studying orthodontics, you have to finish dental school and first become a dentist. Dental school typically takes four years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree. It is not a requirement to get an undergraduate degree in a field of science to make it into dental school. Even so, you will usually need to finish prerequisite courses in chemistry, biology and some other sciences.

A minimum of one year before you try to be admitted to dental school, you must take the DAT, otherwise known as the Dental Admissions Test. This exam will look at your comprehension of certain sciences as well as your perceptual and academic abilities in a general sense. Schools will use the results of this exam, any letters of recommendation you have and your college GPA into consideration when they are deciding on your admission. Many dental schools will usually require an interview as a part of the process.

Your time in school will be divided up into different sections, usually with required courses taken in the first two years, such as physiology, anatomy, pharmacology and various dental-related sciences. The final years will often consist of clinical work, which will help you care for patients in a real-life setting. Once you are done with dental school, you’ll either get a Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), both of which have similar curriculums.

Orthodontic Residency

In your last year of dental school, you can apply to a two- or three-year residency if you want to go into other dental fields, such as orthodontics. Applicants can use different postdoctoral programs to find the programs that best suit them. Most of them necessitate that you have passed the NBDE or National Board Dental Examination.

Orthodontic residency programs are competitive, with only one of every 15 applicants usually getting accepted to any given program. Still, once you get in, you will be closely supervised as you treat your patients. The residency often requires long hours as well as study time and lab requirements. After your residency, you have to pass board exams and then get licensed in your state before you are ready to practice. You can also decide to get certified by the American Board of Orthodontists. In order to get the certification you need, you have to pass both clinical and written exams. These exams must be retaken each year.

Other Skills

Many orthodontists will set up their own small businesses and private practices. If you go this route, you’ll also need to know how to run a business and manage the office. Of course, this means there is more to the job than just dental work. In order to successfully run a private practice, you’ll need to know some basic business skills like finance and human resources. You are likely to also hire a small staff to help you with different responsibilities, so you can focus on your patients. It also requires that you have good people skills, as your patients will need to find you friendly, empathetic and personable in order to keep returning.

Working as an Orthodontist

While the upfront costs of education can seem overwhelming, after some time, having a career in this field can pay off. Employment is thought to grow much more quickly than other careers. There are many job opportunities around the country for this occupation, with plenty of room to grow. There are constant technological innovations in the field, meaning there is always something new to grasp. Continuing education will help you to improve the skills you already have and understand all of the latest aspects of orthodontic care. The more you keep in touch with the latest tech, the more successful you’ll be.

Most orthodontists have work schedules that are reasonable, working between 35 and 40 hours a week usually on business days. Sometimes, you might have to meet patients outside of typical work hours for emergency work or special appointments. In an overall sense, being an orthodontist is a good career for those who are dedicated to giving their patients a nice smile and who are committed not just to the work itself but the process to get there. Though becoming an orthodontist may seem daunting from a distance, it is thought to be very rewarding. If you are passionate about giving your patients their prettiest and healthiest smile, then pursuing a career in the orthodontic field may be a good fit for you.