Orthodontists are specialized healthcare professionals who treat patients with dental abnormalities. These professionals work alongside dentists and are trained to devise appropriate treatment plans. According to a research conducted by the Ameritas Group, 6 out of 10 children have dental cavities that lead to delayed physical development and decay.
These professionals typically work in the offices of dentists and physicians and are an important part of the healthcare industry.
How to become an orthodontist
To become an orthodontist, individuals must complete their bachelor degree and also earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree (D.D.S). It is necessary that all individuals successfully graduate from a dental school and acquire the necessary license for practice. The requirements for certification and licensing will vary slightly from state to state. There are a number of associations and boards that offer voluntary certification to professionals in this field. Listed below are the summarized steps for becoming an orthodontist:
Earn a bachelor degree
Graduate from dental school
Get a license
Get certified (optional)
Individuals do not necessarily have to earn a bachelor degree in dentistry or a similar field. However, it is recommended that the subjects chosen in the program are related to general science, biology, and physiology. Having a background in science can be useful for dental school ahead.
Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S)
The DDS degree has been designed to provide students with basic understanding of dental science, advanced conceptual knowledge, and the development of analytical skills. This degree is one of the most important requirements to become an orthodontist. Students will learn about the role of orthodontists in the healthcare industry, and how various social and technological factors are affecting the occupation. The program will cover in-detail relevant courses that not only equip students with theoretical knowledge, but also enhance skill development and practical learning.
In the initial phase of the program students gain a thorough understanding of basic sciences and human physiology. The coursework revolves around general science subjects, human organ systems, and medicine. Further in the program, clinical experience is provided to students through advanced learning modules and laboratory courses. Students will learn how to design and develop various dental implants (prosthodontics).
The coursework may vary a little. However, some of the most common subjects found in the curriculum are:
Dental Microbiology (2-4 credits)
This course will provide students with an overview of medical microbiology, immunology, bacteriology, virology, and parasitology.
Human Gross Anatomy for Dental Students (2-4 credits)
This course will allow students to explore the anatomy of the human body. Students will learn about various body functions and organ systems. Important topics covered in the course include general histology, cadaveric dissections, thorax, and more.
Human Pathology (2-4 credits)
This course has been designed to provide students with an overview of various diseases and their processes. Students will learn about various organ-related processes, basic and multi-system diseases.
Basic Pharmacology (2-3 credits)
This course will emphasize the principles of pharmacology and drugs. Students will learn about the various drugs available and their effects on the human body.
Oral Surgery (2-4 credits)
In this course, students will learn about the basics of anesthesia, sedation, pain control and surgery techniques. The course will cover a range of topics that focus upon oral surgery clinic and dental settings.
Prosthodontics (2-4 credits)
This course will enable students to gain a thorough understanding of denture repairs and processed dentures. Students may be required to complete the course in practical settings.
Pediatric Dentistry (2-4 credits)
In this course, students will learn how to treat young patients with dental abnormalities. The course will cover topics such as management of pediatric behavior, pediatric dentist processes, and clinical pediatric dentistry.
Objectives of the Program
Train students to become competent dental surgeons
Train students to perform dental surgery
Identify and treat various dental diseases
Understand the ethical and legal regulations of the profession
Promote high quality oral healthcare
How long does it take to become an orthodontist?
A bachelor degree typically takes four years to complete. A doctor of dental surgery degree also takes around 2-4 years to complete. The exact duration will depend upon which school you enroll in. Some colleges are also offering accelerated degree programs in this field. Therefore, the total time needed to become an orthodontist ranges somewhere between 8-10 years. This includes residency.
Students who cannot enroll in college-based classes due to financial or employment restraints can opt for online DDS degrees. Pursuing this program online is more flexible and convenient as compared to campus-based degrees. Individuals have the freedom to study at their own pace and in their free time.
To enroll in a doctor of dental surgery program, individuals are required to take the Dental Acceptance Test (DAT). This is a standardized admission test for dental school applicants. Many colleges base their admission upon the scores of DAT. The admission requirements will vary from school to school. Students must also provide the following documents:
Official transcript of a bachelor degree
Letter of recommendation
Minimum CGPA score
After the steps to become an orthodontist have been taken, individuals must also pass the National Board of Dental Examination in their respective state. This exam is mandatory in order to get a professional license. The exam will evaluate clinical skills, proficiency, and knowledge of the candidate. It is important that all individuals meet the training requirements set by the state.
The American Board of Orthodontics is a leading association that offers certification in this specialty. Certification is highly recommended as it reflects an individual’s level of competency and expertise. Many employers prefer hiring individuals who are certified in their field.
Orthodontists can work in dentist’s offices and hospitals. These professionals are required to perform a variety of tasks such as the following:
Diagnose jaw and teeth abnormalities
Apply and fit appliances in patient’s mouths
Design and develop appliances such as space retainers, arch wires, and braces
Prepare treatment plans
According to O Net Online, orthodontists made a median annual salary of $187,200 in 2013. The growth rate for this occupation is above average. Individuals can acquire further education and certification, and improve their prospects in this field.