The Scoop on Orthodontists

Everyone's known someone who had braces (heck, maybe you had braces) and if you did then you should thank your Orthodontist for those straight teeth.

As certain areas have massive increases in birth rates the need for Orthodontists may go up. An Orthodontist works in much the same vein as a Dentist. They go to the same schools, work the same sorts of hours, and they establish their own businesses. As an Orthodontist you'll have to chance to work mostly with kids (if you love kids this is a great job) and you'll have the chance to change the way people feel about their smile'maybe even improve their self-confidence. You work mostly from referrals and you'll have to be willing to work with local Dentists so they'll want to refer their patients to you.

What in the World Does an Orthodontist Do?

Technically, an Orthodontist's job is to apply pressure to your teeth with braces and retainers so you can have straight teeth. If you are working as an Orthodontist then you will have to check your patient's teeth, make molds of their teeth so you can plan how to straighten them, take x-rays (if needed) apply the braces, set the tension on the patient's braces, and make sure the patient knows how to manage their braces. After the patient is ready to have their braces removed you will have to make new molds of their teeth to produce retainers and teach them how and when to wear them. The job requires a steady hand and you're best to hire a staff that can help you out with clerical work, taking appointments, billing, insurance, and office management. You have to manage your staff, but you also get to set your own hours and make sure that your job suits your lifestyle and family as best it cam.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Yes, a great deal of schooling is required to become an Orthodontist. After you complete a Bachelor's Degree (usually in Biology or Chemistry since that's what Dental Schools are looking for) then you'll have to apply to Dental School. The preparatory test is the DAT and after you have taken it you can apply to one of the 56 Accredited Dental Schools in the U.S. (There aren't that many so you may not be able to go to school where you live and that may be prohibitive for some people.)

Once you're in Dental School the process takes 4 years, but they teach you everything you need to know (which is precisely why it takes so long) and afterwards you can get a license to practice Orthodontics. The State Dental Board usually requires you to take a written exam and a "skills exam" (like working on braces for a grade!) and when you pass you get your license and you can start your own practice. After you get started your license requires continuing education in order to renew it.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

Orthodontists typically own their own practices and hire their own staff, but you may need to work for an established Orthodontist or practice before you start your own practice. Occasionally you would be able to work with a larger group of Dentists or Orthodontists, but that is a rarity. Once you feel you have enough money or you are ready to open your own practice you can get started but remember that Orthodontists tend to thrive on referrals so if you aren't the "social type" then you'll need to get used to working along with Dentists who will refer younger patients to you for your services. Recruiting clients is not as prevalent as it is in General Dentistry, but if you are a go-getter you should be able to recruit a client here and there to build your client base and build your profile in your community.

Building your client base is the best way to advance in your career, but it is difficult because your client base ages out of your services and you will have to constantly replenish your client pool. If you want more chances to advance you should consider teaching Orthodontics or doing research. Though being a Professor of Orthodontics might require more advanced schooling it may be a good choice for you depending on your family situation or if you are retiring.

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Orthodontists Overview

Orthodontist Salary:$186,360
Job Prospects:B
Education after high school:11 years
# Employed in US:5,500
% Who work Part Time:23%
Physical Difficulty:+ + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + +

The Pros of being an Orthodontist

  • You can own your own business
  • You can give people jobs by hiring a staff
  • You can work with kids (primarily) if you enjoy children
  • You can help people feel better about themselves

The Cons of being an Orthodontist

  • You have to attend college and then 4 years of Dental School
  • It is hard to keep a good client base because kids age out of your services
  • You have to spend a lot of time getting to know Dentists so they will make referrals to you
  • Almost your entire business will be based on referrals