Orthodontics is a specialty within the dental field. Orthodontists must first get their bachelor’s degrees and graduate from dental school. This process in and of itself is arduous.
Getting into dental school to begin with is no small feat. It requires a high undergraduate GPA both overall and in science and math courses, as well as high scores on the DAT exam. Dental school is a grueling four-year process. After which, the National Board Dental Exam (NBDE) Part I and II must be completed.
After graduating from dental school and completing the exam, the orthodontist hopeful must gain entry into one of the roughly 50 orthodontic residency programs across the nation. (Some estimates claim there are 60 programs, but schools open and close programs depending upon success rate.)
If you think you might want to be an orthodontist, experts in the field say you should probably begin within your second year of dental school getting prepared. You can do this by sitting in on the ortho meetings on your campus and taking craniofacial anomalies as your elective.
Choosing The Right Program
Choosing between the 50-60 orthodontist residency programs can prove challenging. If you have a research specialty area, that can help narrow it down. If you are not interested in doing research, then your applications should be centered upon schools which are not research focused.
This can also cut down on your time spent on a waiting list, as many research specialty areas are popular and will have a waiting list.
Program length can be a consideration as well. Cost and location can factor in. Attend information meetings which can tell you about the typical life of the orthodontic resident at the program. The programs vary in their length, but typically it is a 2-3 year program. If the program is three years, it usually confers a masters degree.
Some programs require tuition. Others offer stipends—but are harder to get into. The benefits of a shorter program is that you are finished and earning money sooner.
But the advantages of a longer program are that you can see a wide variety of complicated cases all the way through the process of treatment inception to treatment completion. Thus, your professional life will be smoother as you are more prepared.
The Best Orthodontist Schools
Although there are no official rankings of orthodontic residency programs, some experts in the field do recommend:
- University of Tennessee
- University of Oregon
- University of California San Francisco
- University of Michigan
- University of Maryland
- Columbia University
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- University of Minnesota
- University of Texas
- University of Florida
- University of California Los Angeles
- University of Washington
- St. Louis University
- Harvard University
- University of Southern California
Getting a Job
Your third year of dental school is a good time to begin putting together your materials to apply to orthodontist residency programs. Be sure to know why you want to be an orthodontist as this will come up in your interviews.
Once you complete your orthodontist training, you will work with an orthodontist assistant, which makes your job a bit easier so that you don’t need six hands in order to be able to work on your patient.
It can be a long road to becoming a successful orthodontist. But most would agree it’s worth it. Good luck and get started!