What Are the Duties of an Orthodontist?
Orthodontist duties extend beyond applying and maintaining braces. Explore what an orthodontist does on a daily basis, as well as career information and the steps required to become an orthodontist.
Orthodontist Job Description
What is an orthodontist? This is a type of dentist who has specialized in the field of orthodontics. Orthodontics primarily focuses on treating a variety of irregularities of the teeth, but extends to the mouth and jaw area as well. Orthodontists must complete additional training in the field of orthodontics in order to treat patients.
What does an orthodontist do on a daily basis? Orthodontists may use braces, wires, and other mouth appliances to help correct irregularities in patients' teeth and mouths. Abnormalities may need to be corrected for medical purposes, or may be more cosmetic. Treating these malformations usually require numerous adjustments and often take a lot of time to correct, so orthodontists may work with the same patients for months or even years at a time.
The most common treatment orthodontists perform is using braces to straighten teeth, but they may also work with patients that have conditions such as a cleft palate. On a daily basis, orthodontist duties may include activities like:
- Diagnosing teeth, mouth, and jaw abnormalities
- Evaluating the best treatment method for correction
- Preparing mouths for braces or other treatments with spacers, arch wires, etc.
- Designing, applying, and adjusting individualized appliances
- Maintaining patient records
Orthodontist Salary and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), orthodontists made an average annual salary of $225,760 in 2018. The majority of these professionals work in the offices of dentists, which is also the highest paying industry for the profession with an average annual salary of $232,980. The top paying states for orthodontists included the states of Washington and Virginia.
The BLS reported a job outlook of 7% for orthodontists from 2018 to 2028. This equated to about 500 new positions during this time period. This positive outlook may be due to the growing need for dental care as the population increases and ages.
Becoming an Orthodontist
Students wishing to become an orthodontist must first attend dental school, followed by specialized training in orthodontics, before earning their license in the field. Learn more about these processes below.
Aspiring orthodontists first need to attend dental school. Most dental schools require applicants to have their bachelor's degree, and although there are not dentistry majors available, there are several pre-dentistry schools available. Applicants also typically need to have completed prerequisite coursework and taken the Dental Admission Test (DAT).
Once admitted, students must obtain their Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry/Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree, depending on the school. Dental school typically takes 4 years and includes clinical experiences working with patients.
After dental school, those interested in becoming an orthodontist must complete an orthodontic residency program to specialize in the field. These programs are typically 2 years in length and may result in a master's degree and a certificate in orthodontics. Students in these programs usually participate in orthodontic research and clinical experiences for hands-on training and may take courses in topics like:
- Oral pathology
- Oral biology
- Craniofacial osteology
- Dentofacial deformities
Dental school helps prepare graduates for the National Board Dental Examinations, which most states require for licensure, and/or any additional state clinical exams. Orthodontists must also take any necessary state exams to become licensed in orthodontics. They may also choose to become board certified in the field from the American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) to demonstrate competency and a commitment to quality care in the field.