Orthodontist Degree Program Information

After earning a bachelor's degree, aspiring orthodontists must learn the basics of the field and gain hands-on experience in dental school. Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) and Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) and master's degrees in orthodontics prepare students for the profession.

Essential Information

Dental training programs awarding the D.D.S. or D.M.D. are similar in content, and both prepare students for professional dental practice. Then master's degrees in orthodontics programs prepare students to specialize in orthodontics through rigorous coursework and clinical rotation.

In every state, orthodontists are required to obtain both a dental license and a license to practice orthodontics. Most orthodontists seek board certification as well.

  • Program Levels: Doctoral degrees, master's degree.
  • Prerequisites : For the D.D.S and D.M.D applicants must pass the Dental Admission Test, and a criminal background check; coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, and biochemistry is also required. Master's degree applicants must have a D.D.S. or a D.M.D. prior to admission.
  • Program Length: Four years for the D.D.S. or D.M.D. and two to three years for the master's degree.
  • Other Requirements: Clinical work.

Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine

Dental students are provided with a comprehensive education in the social, basic and clinical sciences.

The first two years of a D.D.S. or D.M.D. program focus on general science coursework, while the final two years are made up of clinical rotations. Specific course topics might include:

  • Oral anatomy
  • Genetics
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Radiology
  • Endodontics

Master of Science in Orthodontics

Dentists seeking to specialize in the field of orthodontics should pursue a 2- to 3-year training program following completion of their dental degrees. Such programs commonly lead to a master's degree.

Didactic topics might include:

  • Principles of orthodontics
  • Orthodontic techniques
  • Management of craniofacial anomalies
  • Materials science
  • Oral histology and pathology
  • Research methods

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment growth for those in the orthodontics profession was expected to grow at a rate of 16% during the 2012-2022 decade. This rate was faster than the average for all occupations and equal to those practicing general dentistry. The increase was expected due to demand for dental work and increased availability of dental insurance.

Orthodontist salaries, while generally high, vary by location of practice. For example, the BLS reported that as of May 2014, orthodontists in Illinois made an average salary of $135,820. The national mean salary for orthodontists per year in 2014 was $201,030.

Continuing Education Information

Each state maintains its own licensing requirements for orthodontic professionals, but most require completion of 1-3 years of residency training to meet eligibility requirements for licensure. State licensure is separate from board certification processes, which are specialty specific. Board certification for orthodontists is administered by the American Board of Orthodontics.

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