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How do I Become an Orthodontist?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Orthodontists are dentists who specialize in correcting misaligned teeth and jaws in children and adults. These professionals fit patients with metal braces, retainers and other specialized devices to align teeth and fix improper bites. Since the work requires an extremely high degree of expert knowledge and dedication, a person who wants to become an orthodontist must be willing to meet lengthy, expensive educational and training requirements. He or she must go through about four years of post-baccalaureate dental school and successfully complete a two to three year residency at a dental clinic or private office.

A high school student who wants to pursue a career as an orthodontist can prepare by taking advanced courses in life sciences and health. Such courses introduce students to the basics to anatomy, physiology, biology, and chemistry, subjects that will be studied at length in future college courses. Nearing high school graduation, a hopeful orthodontist can do Internet research, visit college campuses, and speak with his or her guidance counselor to learn about different undergraduate programs and select the best university.

Undergraduates typically major in health, premedical studies, or life sciences. They receive thorough classroom and laboratory instruction on the physiology of the human body, especially the mouth and jaw. Students usually begin researching different dental schools in their last two years of undergraduate work and begin applying as much as a year in advance. Dental schools are generally quite competitive, and applicants with the best educational records, reference letters, and scores on the Dental Admissions Test are the ones accepted.

A person accepted into an accredited dental school receives intensive classroom instruction on the principles of dentistry for the first one to two years of the program. The last few years are primarily dedicated to practical training in mock dentist offices and actual dental clinics. Students observe experienced dentists and, to a certain degree, are allowed to treat patients. A graduate usually receives either a Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine upon completion of a program.

Whereas most dentists begin practicing independently right after dental school, a person who wants to become an orthodontist must complete an additional two to three years of training. A prospective orthodontist usually assumes a residency position, where he or she receives specialized instruction from established professionals. The person learns more about making diagnoses and treating patients with different types of ailments. After completing a residency and passing a written licensing exam, a person can begin practicing independently.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon170540 — On Apr 26, 2011

I am doing a report for school on Orthodontics and I was wondering, what extra-curricular activities or work experience helped you with this position?

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