How to Become An Orthodontist Complete Guide

Orthodontists are trained dental professionals who examine, diagnose and treat oral cavity anomalies and dental malocclusions. They design and fabricate various appliances that help realign jaws and teeth to maintain normal function and improve overall appearance.

In addition to these tasks, orthodontists also create dental treatment plans and maintain patients’ medical and dental histories.

If the work of an orthodontist sounds like something that would interest you, the following guide on how to become an orthodontist will be of great use to you.

Should I Become an Orthodontist

If you are interested in the field of dentistry, then becoming an orthodontist might be for you. It is a high growth field that pays a lucrative salary, higher than most occupations in the US.

The following table provides a detailed insight into the career of an optometrist, with information regarding the minimum education required, experience and licensing requirements and salary and growth figures.

Education Required

Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine with a postgraduate program in orthodontics

Major Requirement

Dental Medicine with a focus on Orthodontics


Required in all states


Required for specializing in Orthodontics

Key Skills

Communication skills, dexterity, leadership skills, organizational skills, patience, problem-solving skills

Annual Mean Salary (2018)


Job Outlook (2018-28)

7% (for Dentists)


Career Outlook for an Orthodontist

The job outlook for dentists in general is 7%, which is higher than the average for all occupations. This demand will be driven by an aging population, with many members of the baby-boom generation needing dental work. The career outlook for orthodontists will be bright in the coming years, thanks to an increased focus on cosmetic dental surgeries and functional dental reconstruction.

Demand for orthodontists and dentists in general will rise as more and more studies continue to link oral health to overall health. They will be needed to provide care and advice on good dental hygiene and oral cleanliness habits.

Job outlook for orthodontists will vary according to location and industry as well. For instance, California will have the highest employment level in this occupation, with 500 jobs, followed by Texas, Massachusetts, Florida and Maryland. The top paying states for orthodontists are Washington, followed by Virginia, Nebraska, Alabama and Arizona.

The top employing industry for orthodontists was the offices of dentists with 4,710 jobs, followed by general medical and surgical hospitals. The highest paying industry for this occupation was offices of dentists as well, with an annual mean wage of $236,060 in 2018.

Steps to Become an Orthodontist

Step 1: Complete an Undergraduate Degree

In order to be eligible to apply to a dental program and train as an orthodontist, you need to complete a four-year long undergraduate degree. Required pre-dental courses would typically include biology, chemistry, physics and other science courses.

Step 2: Clear the Dental Admission Test (DAT)

This standardized test is required for admissions into dental schools and is administered by the American Dental Association (ADA). Dental schools use this test along with several other factors, such as GPA, interviews and letters of recommendation to admit students into their programs.

Step 3: Graduate from Dental School

Dental programs are four year long and upon graduation, students earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree. The first two years of this degree will be focused on basic courses such as anatomy, microbiology, biochemistry and physiology. The last two years will be spent on gaining clinical experience under the supervision of licensed dentists. In these latter two years, you will be given a basic understanding of the various specialty fields such as periodontics, orthodontics or prosthodontics.

Step 4: Complete an Orthodontics Program

This postgraduate program would typically last three years and would teach you subjects such as surgical orthodontics, dentofacial orthopedics and general orthodontics. You may also receive detailed training on research methods and teaching, and may be required to complete a research project.

Step 5: Get a License

Licensure is required for all kinds of dentists in all states across the US. Typical licensure requirements involve completing dental school, followed by passing a written or practical exam. In order to practice in a specialty, students will have to complete postgraduate education and may be required to take an additional state exam.

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