Would you like to give someone a reason to smile? Does working in a dentistry specialty intrigue you? If so, you may be suited for a career in orthodontology.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), orthodontology is the largest specialty area in the field of dentistry (www.bls.gov). Orthodontics focuses on diagnosing and correcting problems of the teeth and jaw. As an orthodontist, you could work with young and adult patients by straightening teeth or fixing overbites with braces, retainers and other dental appliances.
You might employ an orthodontic technician, who can help you by performing x-rays, creating molds and completing other simple tasks. Like most dental professionals, you might work as an orthodontist in your own private practice, though you could work in a group office with other dentists and dental specialists.
The BLS anticipated employment for all dentists would grow 16% over the 2008-2018 decade (www.bls.gov). The increasing population and the emerging technologies that allow for new and advanced procedures were predicted to fuel this growth. In 2010, the BLS reported that there were approximately 5,580 orthodontists in the U.S., and the average annual salary for these specialists was $200,290.
As in all specialty areas of dentistry, you'll need to begin your education at the undergraduate level. Dentistry programs include significant science-related coursework. Some schools offer pre-dentistry programs that take 2-4 years to complete. Other relevant options include biology, chemistry or a natural science major, each which typically meet prerequistite coursework requirements of dental schools.
You'll need to pass the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) to be admitted into an accredited 4-year dental program. In dental schools, you'll likely take courses in anatomy, physiology and biochemistry accompanied by hands-on clinical practice under the supervision of a licensed dentist. You can earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery or a Doctor of Dental Medicine. Once you've earned your degree, you'll need to obtain a state license by completing written and clinical testing requirements. All states offer licensing in general dentistry as well as orthodontics.
To specialize in orthodontology, you'll need to complete a postgraduate dental program leading to a specialty certificate or master's degree. As a student in an orthodontology program, you can learn to diagnose, treat and correct routine and intricate malocclusions. Your coursework might cover various dental topics, including radiographic cephalometry, orthodontic tooth movement, biomechanical principles, orthodontic techniques, surgical orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. Within your postdoctoral program, you could also need to prepare a patient-based research project. Master's degree programs in orthodontology generally last 36 months, and you could be awarded a master's degree in craniofacial biology as well as a certificate in orthodontics.
After you graduate, you could become board certified to prove your expertise in the field. The American Board of Orthodontics requires that you be s graduate of an accredited orthodontics program and pass comprehensive written and clinical examinations (www.americanboardortho.com). Recertification examinations can be taken within two years of your credential's expiration date and must include dental cases in specific procedures.