Orthodontists are dental specialists who diagnose, prevent, and treat dental and facial irregularities. There are many specialty areas within orthodontics; most deal with problems relating to malocclusion (improper bites) and tooth alignment.
Orthodontists are responsible for straightening teeth, eliminating crowding, aligning jaws, and correcting bite problems. They have extensive training in oral health care, including the treatment of gum disease and tooth decay. They must have a thorough understanding of the jaw joint and muscles that control the movement of the jaws.
Some orthodontists choose to specialize in treating adults or teens. They need to be comfortable speaking with patients about sensitive topics like the appearance of their smile or how braces might feel during treatment.
Orthodontists must also have good manual dexterity and patience for working with small objects like wires and rubber bands. They must also be skilled at creating three-dimensional models of teeth using wax molds or computer software.
Orthodontist Job Duties
Orthodontists are typically responsible for the following duties:
- Performing assessments of patients’ dental and facial structure to determine if braces or other orthodontic treatment is required
- Diagnosing oral malformations, dental irregularities, and jaw misalignment
- Creating treatment plans based on patient needs for brackets, wires, retainers, and other orthodontic devices
- Creating models of patients’ jaws and teeth using plaster model casts or digital scans of mouth molds taken during the initial examination—if one is a pediatric dentist and treating children with immature teeth and jaws
- Performing orthodontic procedures such as extractions and surgical extractions of impacted teeth
- Performing adjustments during the orthodontic treatment process to ensure that patients’ teeth meet their goals for straightness and alignment
- Recommending revisions to the treatment plan as needed based on results of follow-up x-rays
- Providing instructions on proper oral hygiene care to patients
Orthodontist Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for orthodontists is $210,517. While the top earners are making over $505,000 per year.
The number of jobs for orthodontists is expected to grow slower than average over the next decade. This is due to the growing demand for cosmetic procedures among many populations and the increasing awareness of proper dental hygiene among adults and children alike.
Orthodontist Job Requirements
Job requirements for an orthodontist include:
Education: To become an orthodontist, you must first obtain a degree in dentistry. After earning your bachelor’s degree, you will need to enroll in an accredited dental school. While the curriculum may vary slightly, you will generally take courses in areas like physiology, orthodontics, biochemistry and pathology.
After obtaining your dental degree, you must pass the written National Board Dental Examination and state board exams in your state. These exams test your proficiency in subjects like biology, diagnosis and treatment. Once you pass the exams, you can begin applying to positions in orthodontics.
Training: Once you start working as an orthodontist, you should expect to complete several years of on-the-job training. During this time, you will learn how to implement various orthodontic treatments. You should expect to complete several months of rotations in different specialty clinics, including general dentistry, oral surgery, pediatric dentistry and endodontics.
Certifications: While certification is not required to practice orthodontics, many employers seek candidates with certification in the field. You can obtain certification through The American Board of Orthodontics.
Orthodontists must have the following skills:
Empathy: Orthodontists must be able to relate well to patients and their families. They must also possess a certain level of empathy, which is required for performing surgeries and other procedures on patients who may feel anxious or distressed.
Detail oriented: Orthodontists are required to pay close attention to details. For example, they must avoid misaligning teeth which could cause harm or pain to the patient.
Patience: The orthodontist role involves long hours and hard work. Orthodontists must be able to handle this stress without becoming frustrated or impatient.
Communication skills: Orthodontists must be able to communicate clearly, both verbally and in writing, with patients and other staff members.
Critical thinking skills: This job requires critical thinking skills. Orthodontists must be able to solve problems quickly and accurately in order to ensure that their patients receive the best care possible.
An artistic eye: Orthodontists must be able to see past the appearance of a smile to detect potential problems with alignment. An artistic eye helps them look beyond cosmetic concerns and focus on the underlying structure of the teeth and jaws to ensure the best possible outcome.
Orthodontist Work Environment
Many orthodontists work long hours and split their time between the office and the operating room. The environment of an orthodontist’s office can vary, depending on whether it is part of a larger medical practice or in a stand-alone location. Orthodontists often sit at desks working with computers or talking to patients. They may also spend much of their day standing while examining patients’ teeth and mouth structures.
Orthodontist Career Advancement
Orthodontists who want to advance in their careers may look for opportunities to specialize. They may choose to work with a certain age range, a specific dental condition, or a specific type of orthodontic treatment. They may also choose to take a leadership position, such as serving as the chair of a department or as a department director. In these positions, they can work to improve their practices and implement new ideas to increase the efficiency of the organization.
Here are three trends influencing how orthodontists work. Orthodontists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
New Techniques in Braces
Today, orthodontists have many new techniques at their disposal to help them create straighter teeth for patients.
One of the most exciting trends in this field is the rise of self-ligating braces. These braces are similar to traditional models but are designed to be much more efficient and less expensive.
Growing Importance of Marketing for Orthodontists
The growing importance of marketing for orthodontists is driven by the number of treatment options available to patients, along with an increased desire for dental care that extends beyond what insurance companies typically cover.
According to one survey, approximately 70% of Americans report they would like to improve their smile and nearly 50% say they would like to straighten their teeth if they could afford it.
As a result, orthodontists are competing against other professionals who can offer more affordable procedures and better financing options.
Patient Education on Braces
In the past, patients have relied heavily on orthodontists to make decisions about their treatment, but today’s consumers are becoming more educated about their options and want to be included in the decision-making process.
As a result, many orthodontists are focusing on educating patients about their treatment options and addressing any concerns they may have, in order to avoid potential conflicts later on.
How to Become an Orthodontist
1. Planning Your Career Path
Those who want to become an orthodontist should be prepared to devote themselves entirely to their education. It’s also worth it to consider your personality and that you can be outgoing with patients. It’s important that you enjoy the aspect of working directly with people if this career path interests you.
If you decide that becoming an orthodontist is right for you, there are several degrees and certifications required before starting work in your chosen area. The best way to learn more about these requirements is by contacting your state or provincial government for more information on licensing details. Another option is reaching out directly to local dental practices; many of them employ new graduates as interns during their first years in practice, which gives them a chance to gain insight into the industry without committing long-term at first.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for orthodontist positions highlight the ability to communicate and their education. To do so, include accomplishments related to patient care, staff management, or any awards you may have received. Be sure to list any relevant training you have completed as well as skills such as problem-solving and using new technologies.
Since this is a highly specialized field, you may want to include any certifications that you have received. For example, if you are certified by the American Board of Orthodontics, be sure to list that on your resume. Also, be sure to include all relevant computer skills and software programs you are versed in so employers can see how valuable you would be for the position.
3. Applying for Jobs
Searching for a job as an orthodontist is all about doing your research. There are lots of ways to get involved in the orthodontic community, such as attending events like the American Association of Orthodontists annual conference and getting involved with local organizations. As an active participant in the community, you’ll get to know your industry and will have a stronger understanding of the types of companies that may be a good fit for you. It can also be helpful to reach out to organizations in your area, even if they aren’t currently hiring, and volunteer your time and expertise in order to build a connection with them.
When it comes to applying for jobs, make sure you do your research on the company you’re applying to. In addition to submitting an application, you can send in a cover letter and list any relevant publications you’ve been a part of, especially if they relate to the position. You can also add your LinkedIn profile to your application so employers can get a better sense of who you are.
4. Ace the Interview
When you’re interviewing for a position as an orthodontist, you will want to be sure that you’re able to demonstrate your knowledge of the profession and why you are the best candidate for the job. Make sure that you know about trends in the field, what is currently happening in research, and what types of new technologies are being developed.
Don’t forget to mention any publications, presentations, or journal articles that you’ve had published. Also make sure that your resume gives them a clear picture of your experience level. If they ask about your certification status, be ready to list all of your credentials.
Make sure you are professional and respectful at all times. Your interviewer will want to learn about how well you can communicate with others as well as how well you can work with a team.