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How to Become An Orthodontist

Orthodontists are specialized healthcare professionals who treat patients with dental abnormalities. These professionals work alongside dentists and are trained to devise appropriate treatment plans. According to a research conducted by the Ameritas Group, 6 out of 10 children have dental cavities that lead to delayed physical development and decay.

These professionals typically work in the offices of dentists and physicians and are an important part of the healthcare industry.

How to become an orthodontist

To become an orthodontist, individuals must complete their bachelor degree and also earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree (D.D.S). It is necessary that all individuals successfully graduate from a dental school and acquire the necessary license for practice. The requirements for certification and licensing will vary slightly from state to state. There are a number of associations and boards that offer voluntary certification to professionals in this field. Listed below are the summarized steps for becoming an orthodontist:

  1. Earn a bachelor degree
  2. Graduate from dental school
  3. Get a license
  4. Get certified (optional)

Individuals do not necessarily have to earn a bachelor degree in dentistry or a similar field. However, it is recommended that the subjects chosen in the program are related to general science, biology, and physiology. Having a background in science can be useful for dental school ahead.

Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S)

The DDS degree has been designed to provide students with basic understanding of dental science, advanced conceptual knowledge, and the development of analytical skills. This degree is one of the most important requirements to become an orthodontist. Students will learn about the role of orthodontists in the healthcare industry, and how various social and technological factors are affecting the occupation. The program will cover in-detail relevant courses that not only equip students with theoretical knowledge, but also enhance skill development and practical learning.

In the initial phase of the program students gain a thorough understanding of basic sciences and human physiology. The coursework revolves around general science subjects, human organ systems, and medicine. Further in the program, clinical experience is provided to students through advanced learning modules and laboratory courses. Students will learn how to design and develop various dental implants (prosthodontics).


The coursework may vary a little. However, some of the most common subjects found in the curriculum are:

  • Dental Microbiology (2-4 credits)

This course will provide students with an overview of medical microbiology, immunology, bacteriology, virology, and parasitology.

  • Human Gross Anatomy for Dental Students (2-4 credits)

This course will allow students to explore the anatomy of the human body. Students will learn about various body functions and organ systems. Important topics covered in the course include general histology, cadaveric dissections, thorax, and more.

  • Human Pathology (2-4 credits)

This course has been designed to provide students with an overview of various diseases and their processes. Students will learn about various organ-related processes, basic and multi-system diseases.

  • Basic Pharmacology (2-3 credits)

This course will emphasize the principles of pharmacology and drugs. Students will learn about the various drugs available and their effects on the human body.

  • Oral Surgery (2-4 credits)

In this course, students will learn about the basics of anesthesia, sedation, pain control and surgery techniques. The course will cover a range of topics that focus upon oral surgery clinic and dental settings.

  • Prosthodontics (2-4 credits)

This course will enable students to gain a thorough understanding of denture repairs and processed dentures. Students may be required to complete the course in practical settings.

  • Pediatric Dentistry (2-4 credits)

In this course, students will learn how to treat young patients with dental abnormalities. The course will cover topics such as management of pediatric behavior, pediatric dentist processes, and clinical pediatric dentistry.

Objectives of the Program

  • Train students to become competent dental surgeons
  • Train students to perform dental surgery
  • Identify and treat various dental diseases
  • Understand the ethical and legal regulations of the profession
  • Promote high quality oral healthcare

How long does it take to become an orthodontist?

A bachelor degree typically takes four years to complete. A doctor of dental surgery degree also takes around 2-4 years to complete. The exact duration will depend upon which school you enroll in. Some colleges are also offering accelerated degree programs in this field. Therefore, the total time needed to become an orthodontist ranges somewhere between 8-10 years. This includes residency.

Online Degrees

Students who cannot enroll in college-based classes due to financial or employment restraints can opt for online DDS degrees. Pursuing this program online is more flexible and convenient as compared to campus-based degrees. Individuals have the freedom to study at their own pace and in their free time.

Admission Requirements

To enroll in a doctor of dental surgery program, individuals are required to take the Dental Acceptance Test (DAT). This is a standardized admission test for dental school applicants. Many colleges base their admission upon the scores of DAT. The admission requirements will vary from school to school. Students must also provide the following documents:

  • Official transcript of a bachelor degree
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Minimum CGPA score


After the steps to become an orthodontist have been taken, individuals must also pass the National Board of Dental Examination in their respective state. This exam is mandatory in order to get a professional license. The exam will evaluate clinical skills, proficiency, and knowledge of the candidate. It is important that all individuals meet the training requirements set by the state.


The American Board of Orthodontics is a leading association that offers certification in this specialty. Certification is highly recommended as it reflects an individual’s level of competency and expertise. Many employers prefer hiring individuals who are certified in their field.

Career Options

Orthodontists can work in dentist’s offices and hospitals. These professionals are required to perform a variety of tasks such as the following:

  • Diagnose jaw and teeth abnormalities
  • Apply and fit appliances in patient’s mouths
  • Design and develop appliances such as space retainers, arch wires, and braces
  • Prepare treatment plans

According to O Net Online, orthodontists made a median annual salary of $187,200 in 2013. The growth rate for this occupation is above average. Individuals can acquire further education and certification, and improve their prospects in this field.

States with the highest employment level in this occupation:



Employment per thousand jobs

Location quotient

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

California 1660 0.11 1.26 18.13 37720
Florida 1130 0.14 1.68 17.97 37370
Illinois 960 0.16 1.92 17.9 37240
Texas 760 0.07 0.78 16.62 34570
New York 650 0.07 0.85 20.12 41840


How to become an Orthodontist in Texas?

To become an orthodontist in Texas, you will need to first complete a four year long undergraduate degree. Even though there are no specific major requirements for aspiring orthodontists, going for a bachelor’s degree in biology, organic chemistry, physics or pre-dentistry can help form a strong foundation for further education. The next step would be to apply in a dental school, for which you will need to take and pass the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) at least a year before admissions.

Admissions into dental schools will be based on the DAT scores, GPA, personal interviews and letters of recommendation. Once you have completed the four-year long dental school, you will either have a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DOS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) credential. Following this, you can complete a three-year long orthodontist residency, which will include a Master of Science in Orthodontics. Before beginning practice, Orthodontists are required to pass the American Board of Orthodontics certification exam and a state level licensing exam administered by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners.

How to become an Orthodontist in California?

The first step to becoming an Orthodontist in California is to get a four-year long undergraduate degree. After the completion of this degree, you will have to give the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) and submit its score along with letters of recommendation for Dental School. Once admitted to a dental school, you will be spending an additional four years here learning about periodontics, radiology, anesthesia and anatomy. After completing dental school, you will have to complete a residency program in orthodontics and get licensed from the Dental Board of California.

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:Can you name some alternate career options for an orthodontist?

A:You can choose from a variety or related career paths such as the following: cosmetic dentist, periodontist, oral surgeon, dental assistant, and more. Please remember that you may need to further acquire training or education for each occupation. There are many schools offering specialized training courses in each of these fields.

Q:What is average job growth rate for orthodontists?

A:According to Onet Online, the demand for orthodontists is expected to grow by 15%-21% from 2012-2022. Over 3000 job openings are expected in this career field in the coming few years. Orthodontists are professionals who diagnose and treat dental/oral cavity anomalies. These professionals are mostly employed in the health care sector.

Q:What are Some Well-Known Orthodontist Schools?

A:There are many accredited schools offering orthodontist degree programs and courses. You can search online or browse through our page to find out more about these schools. Before you select a school, research well and check the following factors: school accreditation, schools reviews and rankings, faculty, student reviews, location, costs, and educational facilities.

Q:What Are the Duties of an Orthodontist?

A:Orthodontists usually perform the following duties: diagnose dental abnormalities, examine diagnostics records, develop patient treatment plans, perform dental x-rays, plaster models of the teeth, develop treatment plans for dental-facial abnormalities, design dental appliances such as retainers, lingual arch wires, etc, and assist dental officers. These professionals work in various health care settings.

Q:What are Some Popular Careers in Dentistry?

A:You can choose from different careers in dentistry. Here are some popular career paths: dental assistant, dentist, dental hygienist, and dental laboratory technician. You may have to receive further training and specialized skills for each position. The job description, income level, and growth prospects will vary from job to job.

Q:What Do I Need to Take for My Majors if I Want to Be an Orthodontist?

A:Students who want to become orthodontists, are first required to complete a bachelor's degree and then apply to a four year long dental education program. At undergraduate level, students can opt for majors in chemistry, biology, or even pre-dentistry. Once they successfully complete this, they receive a Doctor of Dental Surgery or a Doctor of Medicine degree. Then they have to take the National Board Dental Examinations and state clinical tests.

Q:What Must You Study to Be an Orthodontist?

A:According to the American Dental Education Association, nearly 70%of all students who got for admission into a dental school, have a background in pre-dentistry, biology, chemistry or other sciences. Students who wish to become orthodontists are advised to have a strong understanding of the concepts of sciences.

Q:What Licensing Is Required for an Orthodontist?

A:Licenses for dentists vary from state to state. Most states require dentists to only posses a dental license. Other states, such as Michigan, Idaho and Oregon, require that orthodontists obtain a special orthodontic license, in addition to the general dentistry license. All orthodontists are required to fulfill the requirements set by their state, before they can begin to practice.

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