How to Become an
Orthodontist

Male orthodontist talking to a female patient in an operating room

Are you interested in pursuing a career in Orthodontics? If so, this article will provide you with everything you need to know about the job responsibilities of Orthodontists, as well as educational requirements and resources for finding employment.

What Does an Orthodontist Do?

An Orthodontist works in the field of dentistry, examining, diagnosing and treating malocclusions, which are improper bites, as well as oral cavity anomalies. This professional fixes dental irregularities by appliances, such as braces, retainers and headgear. Orthodontists typically work in dental clinics or offices, many opening their own practices.

Orthodontists need to be knowledgeable in the field of dentistry, but also need customer service and communication skills to treat a variety of patients, often children. Common Orthodontist duties include:

  • Examining patients to diagnose dental abnormalities

  • Developing dental treatment plans, such as the best way to fix a dental problem

  • Fitting orthodontic appliances, such as braces

  • Checking on the progress of patients

Orthodontist Skills

While being knowledgeable in the dentistry field is vital to succeed in this role, being able to communicate with, educate, and comfort patients that may be in distress or in pain is also essential. Orthodontists need to be empathetic, diplomatic and pleasant.

Other key Orthodontist skills include:

  • Being detail-oriented

  • Being able to operate with medical instruments

  • Being able to actively listen

  • Communicating with different types of people, such as patients and staff

How Do You Become an Orthodontist?

Education and Training

While select applicants are accepted into dental school after finishing two or three years of college courses, most dental school will only accept college graduates. To be considered for admission, applicants must complete at least two years of pre-dental courses, such as classes in the field of sciences like chemistry and biology. Furthermore, a high grade point average (GPA), a passing score on the Dental Admission Test (DAT) and references are required.

After completing dental school in an average of four years, students go on to complete orthodontic training in the dental and facial area via an internship or clinical practice for an additional two to three years. A state license must be obtained, as well as optional certifications from the American Dental Association and the American Board of Orthodontists.

Finding a job

Shortages in this specialty mean that there is a growing demand for Orthodontists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts an 18 percent growth for this occupation, with 320 new job openings through 2024 in the United States. This projection means that aspiring Orthodontists should be able to find jobs in offices and dental clinics.

When applying for an Orthodontist job opening, describe your educational and clinical experience in a professional resume. View Orthodontist resume examples to start working on your resume.

While many applicants find jobs in the field of orthodontics via job openings, it may be advantageous to network with individuals you met in dental school and/ or your internship to increase your chances of securing employment.

A well-written cover letter that states your interest in a position as an Orthodontist and describes your education, clinical experience and skills is helpful in finding a job. JobHero’s cover letter examples can provide examples of cover letters.

Insights from an Orthodontist

To provide insights from an actual Orthodontist, we interviewed Dr. Kerry White Brown of White Brown Smiles.

What is the common career path for an Orthodontist?  

After graduating from high school, one would attend a 4-year college with a major in one of the biological sciences and receive a BS degree.  After that, one would enroll in dental school for 4 years receiving a doctorate degree in dentistry (DDS or DMD dependent on the school, but same degree). With doctorate in hand a dentist would enter an orthodontic residency program for 2 or 3 years depending on the program length and receive certification in orthodontics by the American Association of Orthodontics.

What should someone consider before becoming an Orthodontist?

I believe one should have a love for science, people and a love to serve others.  Being able to work with children is a must as a majority of orthodontic patients are children.

What type of person excels in this job?

The person that excels as an orthodontist is first a good people person. You have to have good relationship skills as you are entering a long-term relationship with your potential patients, at least 2 years. You must also have a good mind for business as running an orthodontic practice is a business that has the luxury of serving others.

What are some of the most important skills or an Orthodontist to have?

Well, the most important skill is to be able to talk with people, children and their parents to show them how you can help them solve one of the problems that they are trying to solve. You must be able to manage a staff or choose wisely someone to manage your staff. For years, that was my hardest job; creating beautiful smiles was the easy part. Being able to work with your hands is most important, bending wires, looking for discrepancies in the occlusion and determining how to correct them. It is also important to keep up on the new technology and techniques as things are constantly changing in the industry for the better. Also, it is important to keep up with continued education, which is a requirement for license renewal.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being an Orthodontist?

The most rewarding aspect of being an orthodontist is changing the smiles of my patients and seeing how it changes their lives. It changes their self-esteem and changes the way they view themselves. Some people become more confident and therefore are more focused on achieving more aggressive goals and are no longer limited by what they perceived was a shortcoming, their smile.

How Much Do Orthodontists Get Paid?

Orthodontists typically earn a salary; the median salary is $187,200 in the United States. The lowest paid Orthodontists make $57,800 per year, while the highest paid professionals make well over $187,200.

Top 10 States for Orthodontists Salary

    New York

    $299,150

    Massachusetts

    $296,996

    Maryland

    $280,581

    California

    $276,927

    Vermont

    $274,791

    Hawaii

    $274,590

    Connecticut

    $274,076

    Washington

    $273,801

    North Dakota

    $273,448

    Orthodontist Resources

    For more information about becoming or working as an Orthodontist, follow these sources.

    On the Web

    American Board of Orthodontics
    Orthodontic specialty board recognized by the American Dental Association.

    American Association of Orthodontics
    World’s oldest and largest dental specialty organization.

    On LinkedIn

    Orthodontics and Dental Industry Jobs and Recruiting
    Jobs in the Orthodontic and Dental Industries.

    Orthodontics and Dental Technology
    A group for Orthodontists, dentists, engineers and services providers interested in innovative use of technology such as 3D graphics, Databases for Orthodontics and Dental fields.

    Books

    Dental Anatomy
    A book with dental diagrams and labels.

    Contemporary Orthodontics, 5e
    Information on diagnosing and treating orthodontic problems.

    Sources for this article include the Bureau of Labor Statistics, online job postings and other online sources.