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How to Become an Orthodontist

Are you interested in helping people look and feel their best and wondering how do you become an orthodontist?

Most orthodontists would agree that their career is unique and rewarding–not to mention well-paying. However, orthodontia is also competitive and demanding. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this field, it’s vital to understand the road you must take.

So, how do I become an orthodontist? Keep reading for an in-depth look at everything you need to know to pursue this career.

What Are The Steps to Becoming an Orthodontist?

1.Undergraduate Degree

Aspiring orthodontists must first complete a four-year undergraduate degree. They should get excellent grades and be able to produce fantastic letters of recommendation for their dental school applications.

While there is no major requirement to be admitted to dentistry school, most students complete science-based studies. Biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and molecular biology are some of the most common bachelor degrees for orthodontists, as these majors help students fulfill dental school admission requirements.

Science degrees also provide the foundation needed to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT), which is required when applying for dental school. (Some schools also ask students to take the GRE).

However, some students choose other majors, such as psychology, statistics, or English. While not directly related to dentistry, these courses of study can help develop strong, well-rounded candidates.

2. Dental School

Before you become an orthodontist, you must first become a dentist. Becoming a dentist requires you to get a degree from a four-year dental school.

At dental school, students undertake intense studies to gain a comprehensive knowledge of general dentistry. The first two years involve practical coursework, while during the second two years, students gain more hands-on experience.

Upon completion of dental school, you receive either a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree (DDS) or a Doctor of Medical Dentistry degree (DMD). There is little practical difference between the two.

Once you graduate from dental school, you will take your state licensing exam. This is required to practice dentistry on patients. You will need this for your residency. Once you complete your residency, you will take another licensing exam to practice orthodontics.

How Competitive is Dental School?

Dental school is the first hurdle to becoming a dentist, but first you have to be admitted. So how hard is it to get into dental school? The average acceptance for dental school is 5.1% which is very competitive compared to graduate school. It is important during your undergraduate studies to focus on your grade point average and studying for the DAT. The competitive GPA for acceptees is a 3.7 and the competitive score for the DAT is 22.

3. Residency

Orthodontic hopefuls apply to residency programs during their final year of dental school, where they must complete a further two or three years of study. These residency programs are usually affiliated with a university and often take place at a teaching hospital. The curriculum is rigorous, with long workdays, lab requirements, and lots of studies.

To be accepted, you must have passed the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE). Additionally, only the best of the best gain admission to these residency programs. Competition is stiff, and many dental school graduates apply several times without getting accepted.

Those who make the cut learn everything they’ll need to become an orthodontist, such as how teeth move, how to apply corrective treatment, and how facial surgery works. You will likely have to undertake a research project and participate in many conferences as well. Upon completion of the residency program, you will have either an orthodontics certificate or a master’s degree.

4. Required Licensing

All states require orthodontists to have the proper licensure.

In addition to having a dentist license (which you will have already taken when you applied for a residency program), a separate orthodontist license is also necessary. Obtaining the required licensing means passing more exams. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, so be sure to confirm licensing laws where you plan to practice.

It’s also important to note that orthodontists must keep their licensure up to date with continuing education hours and recertification exams. These measures help keep medical professionals apprised of relevant research and clinical developments.

5. Board Certification

Once the aspiring orthodontist has completed all required schooling, they can seek certification. The American Board of Orthodontics is the certifying authority, requiring candidates to pass written and practical tests. Once you pass, you become a Board Certified Orthodontist, though you must re-take it every ten years to maintain certification.

What Is the Average Income of an Orthodontist?

It’s difficult to give an exact number, but the data shows that orthodontia pays well. Annual salary can range anywhere from $70,000 to more than $300,000, though the average orthodontist earns somewhere around $208,000 per year.