Orthodontists are dentists who specialize in correcting malocclusions of the bite due to irregularities of the teeth and jaw. Orthodontics is the largest and oldest dental specialty, with approximately 6,600 orthodontists practicing across the U.S. In a survey of 871 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics named orthodontist as one of the ten best-paying careers in America.
It is a great time to be an orthodontist, and the field continues to attract some of the best and brightest in the dental community.
Career Paths for Orthodontists
After completing dental school and a two- or three-year orthodontics residency, most orthodontists will join an existing private practice or open a private practice of their own. A small but growing percentage of orthodontists will join a Dental Service Organization (DSO). With a DSO, orthodontists can focus exclusively on patient care, while all other business and administrative aspects of the practice are taken care of by the support organization. Finally, a very tiny subset of orthodontists work in hospitals, performing orthodontic procedures such as cleft palate repair for medically compromised patients.
A Day in the Life
Most orthodontists work a fast-paced schedule, seeing as many as 70-100 patients per day. Patient visits consist largely of consultations, exams, and the fitting or adjusting of orthodontic appliances. Most orthodontic patients are in their early teens, but orthodontic care that requires the manipulation of facial bones can begin much earlier in childhood. More and more adults are also seeking orthodontic treatment, and now make up around 20% of the orthodontic patient population. Orthodontics is unique in that treatment often spans over multiple years, and patients are seen as often as once per month during that time. As a result, orthodontists have the unique opportunity to get to know their patients well, which can add a great deal of satisfaction to the job.