Orthodontist: Career Profile

Orthodontists are dentists who specialize in diagnosing dental abnormalities and realigning teeth. Individuals who have an aptitude for science and good judgment when it comes to spatial alignment and symmetry may be a good fit for this career.

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Career Profile for an Orthodontist

While some general dentists may perform orthodontic services for their patients, the majority will refer them to an orthodontist. Orthodontists work with patients to improve the functioning of their jaws and teeth, achieve their desired dental appearance and increase overall self-confidence. Orthodontists examine patients, dental records and X-rays to determine alignment and occlusion issues. They consult with patients to determine the best treatment plans and fit patients with braces, retainers and other dental appliances.

Required Education

In order to become an orthodontist, students need to complete four years of dental school. Coursework in dental school includes anatomy, physiology and microbiology, as well as classes that apply more specifically to orthodontics, such as dental anatomy and occlusion, pediatric dentistry and dental materials. Dental students learn in traditional classroom settings but are also required to gain practical experience treating patients in clinics during their last two years of study.

Licensure Requirements

In order to practice, all orthodontists must be licensed by their state. To receive a dental license, candidates must graduate from an accredited dental school, successfully complete the written National Board Dental Examinations and pass state clinical tests.

Certification Information

After becoming a licensed dentist, aspiring orthodontists may choose to be certified by the American Board of Orthodontics (www.americanboardortho.com). Board certification may help practitioners demonstrate their expertise in orthodontics to patients and peers. In order to become certified, candidates must pass both written and clinical exams. To keep their credentials current, certified orthodontist must be recertified every ten years.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that job opportunities for dentists would increase 21% between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). This increase may be due to the growing number of people needing basic and advanced dental services. The BLS noted that orthodontists earned average annual salaries of $186,320 as of May 2012.

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