Tucson

(520) 795-2323

Rita Ranch / Vail

(520) 664-0101

What it takes to become an orthodontist?

We have a lot of patients who are curious about what type of education is involved in becoming an orthodontist. It's a very good question and one you should ask yourself before choosing someone to straighten your child's teeth ( or yours).

All orthodontists must be dentists but not all dentists who do braces are orthodontists. Confusing? Yes, but let me explain. All dentists must go through a certified dental college to obtain their Doctor of Dental Surgery degree, the DDS after their name ( some universities call this a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry degree, or DMD). They are then qualified to practice dentistry or continue their education in a dental specialty. When a dentist decides to specialize in orthodontics he must be accepted into a certified orthodontic college and complete a two and one half year residency for his master's degree.

Orthodontics is one of the most difficult specialties to advance into. It is a unique combination of dental biology and mathematics with an artistic flair thrown in. The orthodontic student is required to complete a certain number of full cases while studying the science behind moving teeth and fitting the bite together. If we all had teeth like the ones on those little plastic models your dentist has in his office it would be pretty simple and straightforward to align teeth. Unfortunately, few of us are that lucky, so we see an orthodontist for help. It's his job to come up with a treatment plan and then adjust it for our personal biology. Phew, he really works hard for that MS he added to his DDS.

As I mentioned earlier, a dentist doesn't have to have a degree in orthodontics to practice orthodontia in his office. He can take weekend classes or online courses to learn about orthodontics but he may not specialize or call himself an orthodontist without a master's degree from an orthodontic residency program.