National Avg. Salary$221,390 More Salary Data →
Job Growth Rate18.3% More Growth Data →
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Orthodontists are dentists that specialize in straightening teeth through the installation and maintenance of braces, retainers, and other adjustment equipment. They measure patients’ mouths and teeth for hardware, install braces, teach patients how to care for braces, and tighten braces regularly.
What is an Orthodontist?
The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in orthodontist roles:
- Evaluate new patients to recommend a treatment plan
- Measure patient mouths and teeth to create or order braces, retainers, or mouth guards
- Install braces and wires, and teach patients how to care for equipment
- Follow up with patients frequently to monitor progress, tighten braces, and make adjustments
- Manage office staff, including receptionists, technicians, and assistants
A Day in the Life of an Orthodontist
Orthodontists are dentists that specialize in straightening teeth. While the majority of the patients an orthodontist sees are pre-teens or teenagers, orthodontists may work with patients of all age groups—even adults sometimes get braces if they weren’t able to get their teeth straightened as children. Patients usually come to orthodontists through referrals from a general dentist. When new patients arrive, orthodontists evaluate the position of teeth to recommend a plan of action for treatment.
If patients need to be fitted for braces, retainers, mouth guards, or night guards, the orthodontist measures the patient’s mouth and teeth. This allows the orthodontist to order appropriately sized hardware from a dental laboratory. Once the equipment arrives from the laboratory, the orthodontist works to install the equipment in the patient’s mouth. This may include adhering braces to a patient’s teeth, installing wires, or simply ensuring that retainers, mouth guards, and night guards fit correctly.
While a patient is being treated by an orthodontist, he/she visits the orthodontist frequently for evaluations and adjustments. Over the course of wearing braces, the orthodontist works to tighten braces to straighten teeth little by little without causing the patient too much pain. Once teeth are straight, the orthodontist removes the braces and polishes the patient’s teeth. He/she may also recommend continued treatment, such as wearing a retainer or mouth guard after braces are removed.
Typical Work Schedule for Orthodontists
Orthodontists generally work full-time during normal business hours and are off on major holidays and weekends. However, office hours may vary greatly by practice, and some practices may choose to offer evening or weekend hours. Overtime may be required on occasion when a lot of patients need attention or to handle patient emergencies.
Projected Job Growth for Orthodontists
Job growth is anticipated for all dental careers—including orthodontists—in the coming decade because of wider access to dental insurance and an increased concern about dental health and oral cosmetics in recent years.
Most orthodontists work for themselves, either in an individual or group practice. Orthodontists who work in a group practice usually share space—and potentially office personnel—with other dentists in their group. Some orthodontists may work for chain dentistry businesses.
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How To Become an Orthodontist
The starting point for becoming an orthodontist is earning a bachelor’s degree. The type of bachelor’s degree pursued is flexible, though most individuals have more success getting admitted into dental school if their bachelor’s degree program requires them to take several science courses. After earning a bachelor’s degree and taking the required dental school graduate program standardized test, students can apply to schools that offer professional dentistry graduate programs.
Aspiring orthodontists must then complete a professional dentistry program to become general dentists. There are three common degrees awarded to dentists: Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM), or Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD). After completing the graduate dentistry program, students are required to pass written and practical exams administered by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE) to become licensed to work as general dentists.
While graduation from dentistry school allows you to find work as a general dentist, additional education is required to specialize in orthodontics. After graduating from dental school, you’ll need to enroll in an orthodontics residency. These residency programs last two or more years and require both coursework and practical training that’s specific to the field of orthodontics. After completing an orthodontics residency, you may also need to take additional exams to become licensed to work as an orthodontist in your state of practice.
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Orthodontist Salary Data
We've provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.
National Annual Salary
National Hourly Wage
How do Orthodontist salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Orthodontist's can make an average annual salary of $221,390, or $106 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $137,150 or $66 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.
Salary Rankings And Facts
#5 Nationally for All Careers
Above Average Salary Nationally
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Programs and Degrees
Here are the most common degrees for becoming an Orthodontist. a PhD or Professional is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.
Highest Education Among Orthodontist
- 95.5% Doctorate
- 2.1% Masters
- 1.7% Bachelors
- 0.3% Associates
- 0% College
- 0.3% High School
- 0.2% Less than High School
Job Growth Projections and Forecast
2014 Total Jobs8,200
2024 Est. Jobs9,700
Job Growth Rate18.3%
Est. New Jobs1,500
How does Orthodontist job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 1,500 jobs for a total of 9,700 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 18.3% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.
Growth Rankings And Facts
#69 Nationally for All Careers
Above Avg. Growth Nationally