A program that focuses on the advanced study of the guidance of growing dental structures and the correction of misalignments, disproportionate growth, and traumas caused by genetics, disease, injuries, and dysfunctional behaviors. Includes instruction in craniofacial growth and development, malocclusion, design and fabrication of orthodontic appliances, craniofacial alignment, physiological function and analysis, cephalometrics, model analysis, space analysis, surgical orthodontics, cleft lip and palate, and treatment planning and management.

Orthodontics/Orthodontology Careers in Dentistry

A program that focuses on the advanced study of the guidance of growing dental structures and the correction of misalignments, disproportionate growth, and traumas caused by genetics, disease, injuries, and dysfunctional behaviors. Includes instruction in craniofacial growth and development, malocclusion, design and fabrication of orthodontic appliances, craniofacial alignment, physiological function and analysis, cephalometrics, model analysis, space analysis, surgical orthodontics, cleft lip and palate, and treatment planning and management.

The American Association of Orthodontists (www.mylifemysmile.org) is the regulatory and governing body for the dental specialty. To practice as an orthodontist in the United States requires an acceptable degree from a U.S. or Canadian accredited dental school (four years) and then an advanced certificate in the study of orthodontics (usually three years: or 3700 hours of advanced specialized training, according to the AAO website) from an American Dental Association-approved program. Should you choose to seek board-certification as an orthodontist, those examinations are offered by the American Association of Orthodontists.

As the AAO website points out, one hundred percent of the job of the orthodontist is focused on aligning the teeth and the jaws. The orthodontist’s tool for doing that is braces.

As always, when doing your research, refer to the American Dental Association’s current list of accredited programs in the United States or Canada in any field.  Because of the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation’s (CODA) very strong program-sanctioning standards, it is possible almost to say that every orthodontics program is pretty much the same. But every program is very different.

This 2009 study of the satisfaction of orthodontics residents in the then 65 orthodontics programs in the United States (335 respondents from 37 programs) concluded that three-quarters were satisfied with their program. Two downsides the authors identified from the survey responses were the residents perceived a lack of interdisciplinary teaching and not enough cases started and completed before graduation.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the annual salary of orthodontists (and oral and maxillofacial surgeons) as above the maximum cited by the BLS. As a prospective student of orthodontics, know that those two programs are the most competitive to get into and survive in, and at the same time academically and clinically the most rigorous, of the advanced dental specialties.