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Orthodontist Job Description

What does an orthodontist do? Orthodontists are specially trained dentists who work with patients to correct improper bites or jaw disorders. Some of the procedures that orthodontists perform are applying braces to teeth and taking molds of teeth to design mouth appliances. Although some of the orthodontic treatments are for aesthetic purposes, others improve jaw and bite functions. Orthodontists can also perform oral surgeries if needed.
Orthodontists generally work in comfortable, private offices and often manage a staff. Their hours can vary, but most orthodontists work full time and sometimes more than 40 hours per week. Some orthodontists work regular business hours, but many have offices that are open in the evenings and on the weekend to accommodate their patients who are usually school age children and teenagers.
Those interested in becoming an orthodontist should possess good interpersonal skills since orthodontists work closely with patients and other members of their medical teams. A good understanding of business practices is also important because many orthodontists own their own practices and must undertake such tasks as managing staff, accounting, and ordering supplies. Physical stamina is another trait an orthodontist should have as they often spend long hours bending over patients applying braces or performing other procedures.

Orthodontist Duties

On a daily basis, an orthodontist might perform the following duties:

  • Meet with and examine patients
  • Design treatment plans for patients
  • Perform managerial office duties

How To Become An Orthodontist

Becoming an orthodontist requires many years of schooling. Those wishing to embark on a career as an orthodontist will need to complete a bachelor’s degree including prerequisite science courses, take the Dental Acceptance Test (DAT), apply to and get accepted into dental school, and then complete several more years of specialized training. After satisfying all education requirements, graduates can apply to become state licensed which usually involves passing an exam.

How Long Does It Take To Become An Orthodontist?

It typically takes about 10 years to become an orthodontist. It takes 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree, another 4 years of dental school, and then 2 more years in a postdoctoral program devoted to the study of orthodontics.

Education Requirements

The path to becoming an orthodontist starts with undergraduate coursework in science and biology. Although most dental schools require that applicants hold a bachelor’s degree, some schools will accept students who have completed several years of schooling as an undergraduate without earning a degree. There is no specific major needed to become an orthodontist, but since the profession is medical in nature, a background or degree in a science field is often helpful.
Applying to dental school is often competitive, so it is important that prospective orthodontists maintain excellent grades during their undergraduate studies, score well on the Dental Acceptance Test (DAT) which is the test taken prior to applying to dental school, and obtain stellar letters of recommendation. If accepted in dental school, students will embark on a 4-year course of study devoted to learning about dentistry through both classes and clinical experience.
For those wanting to become an orthodontist, after graduating from dental school, they must continue their education and complete another 2 years or more in an orthodontist residency program. These programs typically consist of more coursework and emphasize gaining clinical experience by devoting a large portion of the program to clinical care. After completion, they can apply for state licensing and begin practicing as an orthodontist once they become licensed.


Orthodontists can become certified by the American Board of Orthodontics. Obtaining this certification involves written and clinical components. Upon passing, an orthodontist will become a Board Certified Orthodontist. Although the certification is not mandatory, it shows a commitment to the field and instils confidence in prospective patients.


All 50 states mandate that orthodontists are licensed. Not only must they be licensed as dentists, states also require a separate orthodontist license. The dental license necessitates the passing of an exam, but those becoming orthodontists must complete more specialized schooling and possibly another exam . Each state has its own requirements, so it is important to check the licensing laws in the state where one wishes to practice.

Job Outlook

The employment outlook for all dentists, orthodontists included, is estimated to grow by 16 percent between the years of 2012 and 2022. The reasons for the faster than average acceleration in employment is due to various factors. First, the baby boomer generation is getting older, and their need for dental procedures will increase as they age. In addition, new healthcare legislation will also bring more people who previously did not have access to health insurance into dental offices to seek all types of dental treatments. Furthermore, more people will interested in cosmetic dentistry in the coming years. All of these reasons will bring more employment opportunities to thefield. Detailed Orthodontist salary data is available here.

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