Orthodontists examine, diagnose, and treat dental malocclusions (improper bites) and oral cavity anomalies.  Orthodontics is a specialty field in dentistry that requires a two to five year post-dental school graduate study in order for a dentist to qualify as an orthodontist.  They also design and fabricate appliances to realign teeth and jaws to produce and maintain normal function as well as improving appearance.  In order to diagnose and treat properly, orthodontists must recognize various characteristics of improper bites and deformities of teeth and facial bones, define the nature of the problem, design treatment strategies specific to the individual, and present the treatment strategies to the patient in a way he or she understands.


An orthodontist should have diagnostic ability and judgment, which involves good visual memory to shapes, space, and colors.  An ability to pay attention to detail and work in pressure situations as well as the desire to work with people will all increase success in a career in orthodontics.

In order to enroll as a student in Advanced Education in Orthodontics, he or she must have completed four years of dental school and have received a DDS, DMD, or BDS.  Courses in dental school include anatomy, physiology, and microbiology, as well as classes that are more specific to orthodontics.  Graduate programs range from 2 years to 5 years, and depending on the school, awards will either be a  non-degree (certificate) or Masters of Science degree.  After completion, the graduates must complete the written portion of the American Board of Orthodontics exam.


The link to oral health compared to overall health has been more evident recently, and this will increase the need for orthodontists.  An orthodontists’ work environment is usually a small clinic with, at most, a few orthodontist partners and small staff.


American Dental Education Association
1400 K Street, NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 289- 7201

American Association of Orthodontists
401 North Lindbergh Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63141-7816

Phone: (314) 993-1700 or (800) 424-2841