Do Orthodontists Have to Be Dentists First?

Orthodontists are specialized dentists who have received additional training to become experts in aligning teeth and jaws. To become an orthodontist, professionals must first become dentists and complete an orthodontic residency, which often takes two years to complete. To attend an orthodontic residency, candidates must have a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD) degree. After graduating from dental school, which lasts four years, you will receive your DDS or DMD degree.

During dental school, you'll take courses such as biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, oral pathology, oral anatomy, and histology. In the last two years of dental school, you'll have to complete a significant number of hours of clinical practice with different types of patients. Before you can begin studying in the specialty of orthodontics, you must complete dental school and become a fully certified dentist. A bachelor's degree in a scientific field is not a requirement for admission to dental school. However, it is usually necessary to complete previous courses in biology, chemistry, and other sciences.

After finishing dental school, you will need to take the National Board dental exam, which will allow you to attend an orthodontic residency. With or without a referral, you should take your child to an orthodontic consultation before age 7, as recommended by the American Association of Orthodontists. Examining young children before all their permanent teeth come out can allow the orthodontist to correct problems that would be more difficult and expensive to treat later on. To learn more about your child's first visit, see our publication At What Age Should Your Child See an Orthodontist for the First Time?After completing dental school and taking the National Board dental exam, you can begin studying in the specialty of orthodontics. During this specialized training, orthodontic students learn the skills needed to control the movement of the teeth (orthodontics) and guide facial development (dentofacial orthopedics).

Only after this additional education can you call an orthodontist. Your dentist will usually refer you to an orthodontist if, like many people, you have alignment or bite abnormalities. So if you need dental treatment, should you call an orthodontist or dentist? If you have a toothache or suspect that you might have developed a cavity, see your general dentist for a diagnosis. Stefanie Dougherty practiced general dentistry for three years before deciding to pursue her passion for orthodontics. Dentists also improve the function and appearance of teeth by applying adhesives, veneers, or crowns to teeth that are broken, chipped, misshapen, or severely decayed. Simply put, an orthodontist is a dentist who has received additional training to become an expert in aligning teeth and jaws. Only 6 percent of dentists successfully pursue this advanced specialty.

Thanks to orthodontists' advanced education and clinical experience, they have the knowledge and skills needed to recommend the best treatment plan for your individual needs.

María Victoria
María Victoria

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