Orthodontist Career Guide 2024

Table of Contents

Orthodontist Salary in United States for 2023

Average Annual Salary: $174,360 Hourly Rate: $83.83

Data sourced from the U.S. Department of Labor via the ONET Web API. Updated at December 8, 2023

Best College Majors for Orthodontists in 2023

Projected Job Employment for Orthodontist:

Estimated YearProjected YearEstimated EmploymentProjected Employment% ChangeProjected Annual Job Opening
202120316,0006,3005%200

Orthodontist Career Path Overview

The career path of an orthodontist is a journey that requires a significant commitment to education, practical training, and continuous learning. This path is ideal for individuals who have a passion for oral health, an eye for detail, excellent hand-eye coordination, and the ability to build strong relationships with patients. To become an orthodontist, you'll need to complete a series of educational and professional steps. This process typically includes obtaining a bachelor’s degree, attending dental school, gaining licensure, completing a specialized orthodontics residency, and maintaining certification throughout your career.

Educational Requirements

The first step to becoming an orthodontist involves earning a bachelor's degree. While there is no specific undergraduate major required for admission into dental school, many aspiring orthodontists opt for degrees in biology, chemistry, or other science fields to prepare them for the rigorous coursework ahead. Following undergraduate education, the next step is to attend a dental school accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA). Dental school takes four years to complete and culminates in earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) degree.

Licensure and Certification

After graduating from dental school, you must pass written and clinical examinations to become licensed to practice dentistry in your state. The National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) is typically required for licensure. To specialize in orthodontics, you will need to complete a residency program in orthodontics accredited by the ADA. This program lasts two to three years and focuses on specific orthodontic skills such as diagnosing oral abnormalities, managing patient care, and mastering orthodontic techniques. Once the residency is completed, orthodontists can choose to become certified by the American Board of Orthodontics (ABO). Although not required, certification by the ABO can enhance professional credibility and may lead to more job opportunities.

Career Advancement

Career advancement opportunities for orthodontists often involve starting or taking over a private practice. However, some orthodontists may choose to specialize further, focusing on areas such as pediatric orthodontics or oral and maxillofacial surgery. Additionally, many orthodontists participate in continuing education programs to stay updated on the latest advancements in the field. This can include learning new techniques, tools, and technologies that can improve patient care and outcomes.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for orthodontists is promising. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dentists, including orthodontists, is projected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The demand for orthodontic services is driven by an increasing desire for improved dental aesthetics and ongoing need for orthodontic treatment among a growing population. To sum up, the path to becoming an orthodontist is lengthy but rewarding, offering a fulfilling career that combines healthcare, artistry, and interpersonal communication. With a commitment to education and lifelong learning, you can look forward to a successful career in this dynamic field.

Orthodontist Career Path Education and Training

The journey to becoming an orthodontist is a rigorous and rewarding one, marked by years of education, training, and dedication. The first step in this path is obtaining a Bachelor's degree, which serves as the foundation for your dental education.

Bachelor's Degree

A Bachelor's degree is essential for all aspiring orthodontists. While there isn't a specific pre-orthodontic major, most students opt for programs in science-related fields such as Biology, Chemistry, or Physics to fulfill the prerequisites for dental school. During this period, students are encouraged to maintain a high GPA and gain experience in the field through internships or volunteering at dental clinics.

Dental Admission Test (DAT)

After obtaining a Bachelor's degree, prospective orthodontists must take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). The DAT is a comprehensive exam that tests knowledge in areas such as natural sciences, perceptual ability, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning. A high score on this test is critical for gaining admission into competitive dental schools.

Dental School

Upon successful completion of the DAT, the next step is to attend a dental school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Dental school typically lasts four years and leads to a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. The curriculum involves classroom instruction in subjects like oral pathology, radiology, and anesthesia, along with hands-on clinical experience.

Orthodontics Residency Program

After graduating from dental school, those aspiring to specialize in orthodontics must complete an additional 2-3 year residency program in orthodontics. This program provides in-depth training on how to diagnose, prevent, and correct maloccluded teeth and jaws. It also offers advanced education on craniofacial growth and development, biomechanics, and orthodontic techniques and appliances.

Licensing and Certification

Once the residency program is completed, orthodontists must pass a state licensing exam to practice professionally. The requirements for licensure vary by state but typically include passing a written and practical exam. Additionally, while not required, many orthodontists choose to become board-certified by the American Board of Orthodontics (ABO). This involves passing a rigorous exam and presenting treated cases to a panel of experts. Through this structured education and training path, individuals can equip themselves with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in an orthodontist career. It's a demanding journey that requires academic prowess, manual dexterity, excellent communication skills, and a commitment to lifelong learning due to the constant advancements in orthodontic technology and techniques.

Orthodontist Career Path Progression

Becoming an orthodontist is a rewarding career path that requires significant investment in time and education. However, the journey to becoming an orthodontist is well-structured and defined, making it a viable option for individuals with the ambition and dedication to succeed in this specialized field.

Undergraduate Education

The journey towards becoming an orthodontist starts with obtaining a bachelor's degree. While there is no specific major required, most future orthodontists choose to focus on science-related fields such as biology, chemistry, or physics. This undergraduate education provides the necessary foundation in science that will be critical for dental school.

Dental School

Following undergraduate education, aspiring orthodontists must attend dental school. Acceptance into dental school is competitive and requires passing the Dental Admission Test (DAT). Dental school usually lasts four years and leads to a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. These programs combine classroom learning with clinical practice, providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to become a general dentist.

Orthodontic Residency

After dental school, those who wish to specialize in orthodontics need to complete a residency in this field. This is a 2-3 year program which provides intensive training in orthodontics through both coursework and hands-on patient care. Completion of the residency leads to a specialty certificate in orthodontics.

Board Certification

While not mandatory, many orthodontists choose to become board-certified by the American Board of Orthodontics (ABO). This involves passing a written exam and presenting treated cases to a panel of experts for review. Board certification shows a high level of dedication and expertise in the field of orthodontics.

Continuing Education and Career Advancement

Even after becoming an orthodontist, the learning doesn't stop. Orthodontists are required to participate in continuing education to keep up with advancements in the field and maintain their license. Additionally, many orthodontists choose to further their career by opening their own private practice, joining a group practice, or even pursuing a career in academia or research. In conclusion, the career path progression of an orthodontist requires rigorous education and training. However, the reward of helping patients achieve beautiful, healthy smiles makes this a fulfilling career choice for many.

Orthodontist Career Path Specializations and Subfields

In the complex and rewarding field of orthodontics, there are various specializations and subfields that professionals can choose to pursue. This variety allows orthodontists to focus on the aspects of dental care they are most passionate about, thus delivering high-quality services to their patients. Here, we will delve into several key specializations within the orthodontic career path.

Pediatric Orthodontics

Pediatric orthodontics is a specialization focused on diagnosing and treating dental and facial irregularities in children. Professionals in this field are trained to manage the growth and development of a child's jaw and teeth, making early interventions to prevent or minimize future orthodontic issues. This specialization requires a deep understanding of child psychology and comfort in working with children, as well as an ability to communicate effectively with both children and their parents.

Adult Orthodontics

In contrast to pediatric orthodontics, adult orthodontics specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of dental irregularities in adults. As adults' jaws are fully developed, they present unique challenges that require specialized knowledge and techniques. These professionals often work with complex cases like severe malocclusion, impacted teeth, or TMJ disorders. They also frequently collaborate with other dental specialists to provide comprehensive treatment plans.

Lingual Orthodontics

Lingual orthodontics is a subfield that involves placing braces on the inside surface of teeth, making them virtually invisible. This technique requires specialized training due to the complexity of lingual brace placement. Professionals in this field cater to patients who are concerned about the aesthetic impact of traditional braces, providing them with a less noticeable alternative.

Craniofacial Orthodontics

Craniofacial orthodontics is a highly specialized field focusing on the treatment of patients with birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, or conditions resulting from trauma. These professionals often work in multidisciplinary teams alongside oral surgeons, speech therapists, and other medical professionals to provide comprehensive care for these complex cases.

Orthognathic Surgery

Orthognathic surgery is a specialization that combines orthodontics with oral and maxillofacial surgery. Professionals in this field treat severe cases of jaw misalignment that can't be corrected with braces alone. Orthodontists in this subfield work closely with oral surgeons, providing pre-surgical orthodontic treatment to prepare the teeth and jaws for surgical correction. These are just a few examples of the specializations available within the orthodontic career path. Each one offers unique opportunities and challenges, allowing professionals to tailor their career to their interests and expertise. Choosing a specialization can enhance an orthodontist's skills, increase their job satisfaction, and improve the quality of care they provide to their patients.

Orthodontist Career Path Job Market and Outlook

The job market for orthodontists is consistently strong, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a growth rate of 7% from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by an increasing demand for orthodontic treatment among both children and adults who seek to improve their oral health and aesthetic appearance.

Demand for Orthodontic Services

As more people understand the importance of oral health, the demand for orthodontic services is rising. The growing awareness about the impact of oral health on overall wellness is driving this trend. Additionally, technological advancements such as invisible braces and 3D imaging are making treatments more accessible and appealing to a broader demographic.

Job Opportunities in Different Settings

Orthodontists have numerous opportunities to work in various settings. They can establish their own private practices, join existing dental practices, or work in hospitals and dental clinics. There are also opportunities in academia and research for those interested in contributing to the advancement of orthodontics.

Geographical Factors Affecting Job Market

The job market for orthodontists can also be influenced by geographical factors. Areas with higher populations tend to have a greater need for orthodontists. Furthermore, regions with a higher concentration of children and adolescents may offer more opportunities as these age groups frequently require orthodontic care.

Impact of Insurance and Government Policies

Insurance coverage and government policies also play a significant role in the job market for orthodontists. As more insurance companies include orthodontic treatments in their coverage, the demand for these services increases. Similarly, government initiatives promoting oral health can also boost the need for orthodontists.

Continuing Education and Specialization

Continuing education and specialization can enhance an orthodontist's career prospects. By keeping abreast with the latest techniques, technologies, and treatments in orthodontics, professionals can offer superior services to their patients. Specializing in areas like lingual orthodontics, surgical orthodontics, or special needs orthodontics can also open up new opportunities. In conclusion, the job market and outlook for orthodontists are promising. The increasing demand for orthodontic services, opportunities in diverse settings, geographical factors, insurance coverage, government policies, and opportunities for continuing education and specialization all contribute to a vibrant and growing field.

Orthodontist Career Path Salary and Compensation

As a highly specialized profession in the field of dentistry, orthodontics is known for its rewarding salary potential. The compensation an orthodontist receives can significantly vary based on factors such as years of experience, location, and the setting in which they practice. However, it's essential to note that the high earnings come after years of rigorous education and training.

Average Salary of Orthodontists

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for orthodontists in the United States was $208,000 as of May 2020. This figure surpasses the median salary of general dentists, solidifying orthodontics as one of the most lucrative specializations within dentistry. While starting salaries for orthodontists may be lower, often around $120,000 to $140,000 per year, experienced professionals can earn significantly more. Some seasoned orthodontists even earn upwards of $300,000 annually.

Salary Variations Based on Location

The geographical location can greatly influence an orthodontist's earnings. Areas with a higher cost of living or a higher demand for orthodontic services generally offer higher compensation. According to BLS data, the top-paying states for this occupation include Massachusetts, South Carolina, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Iowa.

Compensation Based on Practice Setting

The setting in which an orthodontist practices also affects their salary. Those who own their private practices have the potential to earn more due to direct control over profits. On the other hand, orthodontists employed in hospitals or dental offices may receive a fixed salary but often enjoy benefits like health insurance and retirement plans.

Additional Factors Influencing Compensation

Additional certifications and advanced training can also lead to higher earnings for orthodontists. For instance, those who choose to specialize in areas such as lingual orthodontics or surgical orthodontics may command higher fees due to their unique skill sets. In conclusion, while the road to becoming an orthodontist is lengthy and demanding, it offers significant financial rewards. With the right combination of experience, location, and specialty, orthodontists can secure a comfortable and fulfilling career in this high-demand field.

Orthodontist Career Path Tips for Success

An orthodontist career path can be highly rewarding, both personally and professionally. However, to ensure success in this field, you need more than just a passion for oral health. Here are some valuable tips to help you succeed in your orthodontic career.

Educational Excellence

The journey to becoming an orthodontist starts with a strong educational foundation. After completing high school, you must earn a bachelor's degree, preferably in a science-related field. Following this, you'll need to pass the Dental Admission Test (DAT) to get into dental school. Dental school typically lasts four years, culminating in earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM). After dental school, a 2-3 year residency in orthodontics is required before you can start practicing as an orthodontist. Strive for academic excellence throughout your education. The better your grades and scores, the higher your chances of getting into competitive orthodontics programs and residencies.

Professional Certification

Once you've completed your orthodontics residency, consider getting board certified by the American Board of Orthodontics. While not mandatory, it can significantly enhance your professional credibility and open up better job opportunities.

Hands-on Experience

Practical experience is crucial in the field of orthodontics. Try to gain as much experience as possible during your residency. Apply for internships, participate in clinical rotations, and take advantage of any opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals.

Continual Learning

Orthodontics is an ever-evolving field with new techniques and technologies emerging regularly. To stay at the top of your game, commit to lifelong learning. Attend conferences, enroll in continuing education courses, read professional journals, and stay updated with the latest industry trends.

Interpersonal Skills

As an orthodontist, you'll interact with patients of all ages daily. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are vital for explaining complex dental procedures, calming anxious patients, and building lasting patient-doctor relationships.

Business Acumen

If you plan to run your own practice, business acumen is a must. Understanding business principles such as marketing, finance, and human resources can help you manage your practice effectively and ensure its financial success. By following these tips, you can enhance your chances of success in your orthodontist career path. Remember, it's not just about mastering clinical skills; it's also about continuing to grow, learn, and adapt in this dynamic field.

What is the role of an Orthodontist?

An Orthodontist is a dental professional who specializes in diagnosing, preventing, and treating dental and facial irregularities. These specialists focus on correcting bites, occlusion, and straightening teeth. The primary goal of an Orthodontist is to help patients achieve healthy, functional, and aesthetically pleasing smiles.

What is the job outlook for Orthodontists?

The job outlook for Orthodontists is highly favorable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for Orthodontists will grow 7% from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. This increase is due to the growing demand for dental services, particularly orthodontic treatments for both cosmetic and health reasons.

What education is needed to become an Orthodontist?

To become an Orthodontist, one must first earn a bachelor's degree, preferably in a science-related field. Following this, they must attend dental school to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. After graduating from dental school, aspiring Orthodontists must then complete a 2-3 year residency program in orthodontics. It is important to note that admission into these programs is highly competitive.

How long does it take to become an Orthodontist?

The journey to becoming an Orthodontist typically takes about 10-12 years. This includes four years of undergraduate study, four years of dental school, and an additional 2-3 years of specialized training in orthodontics during the residency program.

What skills are needed to be a successful Orthodontist?

Successful Orthodontists require a unique blend of skills. These include excellent manual dexterity and spatial judgement due to the precision required in orthodontic procedures. They should also have strong interpersonal skills, as they work directly with patients of all ages. Problem-solving skills are essential for diagnosing and planning treatments. Lastly, business skills can be beneficial for those who choose to run their own practice.

What is the average salary of an Orthodontist?

The salary of an Orthodontist can vary significantly based on factors like location, years of experience, and the size of their practice. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2019, the median annual wage for Orthodontists in the United States was $208,000.

What are the advancement opportunities for an Orthodontist?

Advancement opportunities for Orthodontists often involve opening a private practice or becoming partners in existing practices. Other opportunities include taking on teaching roles in dental schools or conducting research that contributes to advancements in orthodontic techniques and technology. Some Orthodontists may also choose to specialize further in areas such as pediatric orthodontics or craniofacial orthodontics.