Orthodontists consistently rank among the top five best healthcare jobs in the United States. If you are considering pursuing a career in orthodontics, it is crucial that you do some research. Educate yourself on what an orthodontist does, how much schooling is required, the benefits and challenges of the position and how much an orthodontist makes. An orthodontist salary can be affected by numerous factors. If you see yourself as a future doctor of orthodontics, you’ll want to know what variables can increase or decrease your bottom line.
What Is an Orthodontist?
An orthodontist is a dentist with specialty training in correcting crooked teeth, misaligned bites and occlusions. After completing dental school, orthodontists receive two additional years of post-doctoral study in the science of orthodontics. This specialized training prepares the doctor to treat not only cosmetic issues with teeth but medical conditions as well. Some of the most common medical conditions treated by an orthodontist include:
Orthodontic treatment can be life-changing for patients. Whether the pain is emotional or physical, a new smile can be a transformative event in a child’s or adult’s life. Having a key role in changing lives can make orthodontics a positive, feel-good career choice.
How Much Training and Education Does an Orthodontist Need?
Orthodontists typically spend ten years in school training to practice their craft. The first step is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited University. This degree must include certain required sciences to progress in the program. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, the next step is dental school. As part of the application process, the applicant must successfully pass the Dental Acceptance Test or DAT. Dental school is competitive and will require four years of study in the practice of dentistry. Upon graduation, the student is considered a dentist and must pass state boards to become licensed. A dentist who wants to pursue orthodontics must complete an additional two years in an orthodontic residency program. These programs are rigorous and include a large amount of clinical work to ensure the dentist is ready to perform orthodontic treatment. Following graduation, there is certification by the American Board of Orthodontics and an additional state licensure test. While this may sound daunting, an orthodontist is an exciting job with many different facets of patient care. Read on to see what an orthodontist does.
What Skills Does an Orthodontist Need to Have?
Orthodontic patients can be children or adults, so a willingness to work with youth is a necessity.
Like any doctor who works with people, communication skills are essential. Orthodontists need to explain the treatment process and update the patient on their progress at each visit. This requires compassion and the ability to be a good listener. Additionally, orthodontic care often involves pain. A successful orthodontist is one who is patient and sympathetic with clients.
If an orthodontist wants to maximize his or her earning power, owning their own practice is important. This requires organization and basic business and finance skills. The orthodontist can’t, and shouldn’t, do everything on their own, but the ability to hire a talented and competent staff requires some human resource know-how. Finally, as a business owner, the orthodontist needs to sell his or her services. So, confidence and the ability to market their skills is another valuable trait.
Manual dexterity is the ability to make precise movements in a controlled and coordinated way. Orthodontists are working in finite spaces and must have the ability to maneuver tools in the patient’s mouth with ease. A slip of a sharp tool could result in injury and pain for the patient. Dental schools frequently question prospective students about their dexterity due to it being a critical component for success.
What Does an Orthodontist Do?
Orthodontic care is divided into phases, and the length of the phase will vary from patient to patient.
Phase One: Planning
This is where the orthodontist decides on a diagnosis and outlines the patient’s treatment plan. Like other doctors, an orthodontist will almost always begin with an x-ray. This image of the patient’s mouth and skeletal structure can give the doctor a better understanding of what treatment is needed. Orthodontists also use bite impressions (or castings) to study alignment issues. Computer generated images can enhance this stage of treatment.
Phase Two: Treatment
During the treatment phase, the orthodontist begins the correction of the teeth and jaw. Based on the information gathered in phase one, the orthodontist will recommend a corrective device, usually braces. These braces must be adjusted throughout the course of treatment to continue progression towards alignment. Colored elastics are used to put increased pressure on certain teeth to speed up results. In addition to braces, orthodontists also use spacers, aligners, palatal expanders, jaw appliances, lip and cheek bumpers and retainers to achieve results.
Phase Three: Maintenance
Once the braces are removed, the work is not over. While the major treatment is complete, it is just as important to maintain the new beautiful smile. Orthodontists will create a maintenance program that will include a retainer to keep the teeth in their new place. Forgetting to wear the retainer can be detrimental. Patients can wind up back where they started from if they don’t follow the orthodontist’s maintenance recommendations.
With many years of required schooling and the wide range of patient care that is provided, it makes sense that an orthodontist would earn a competitive salary. There are variables to consider, but just how much does an orthodontist make?
How Much Does an Orthodontist Make?
On average, a median orthodontist salary falls somewhere between $100,000 to over $200,000. U.S. News reported the 2017 mean annual wage for a doctor of orthodontics as $229,380. This value depends on several factors and can vary by location. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics named the following states as the highest for 2017 orthodontic wages: Arizona, Missouri, Ohio, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama. Usually, orthodontists who are in highly-populated, metropolitan areas will see an increased salary, simply based on population and clientele. Additionally, if the orthodontist owns his or her own practice, their income will most likely be higher. Like most jobs, an orthodontist with a lot of experience and up to date training on the most innovative techniques will likely earn more than an orthodontist right out of school. But, even the low end of the salary average puts orthodontists well into the upper-middle-class, according to the Economic Policy Institute. While financial perks can be very enticing, a healthy salary is just one of the many advantages of working as an orthodontist.
What Are the Benefits of Being an Orthodontist?
In addition to a strong salary, orthodontists enjoy numerous benefits from their work. With successful orthodontic treatment, patients can completely transform their smile. People can transition from being insecure and introverted, due to their teeth, to being confident and excited to greet people. This creates a great sense of accomplishment for the orthodontist and their team. The personal satisfaction that comes from improving lives is an awesome part of this work. Second, orthodontists enjoy high compliance and loyal patients. Braces are something that must be managed consistently to be successful, so patients have to visit the doctor frequently and continually throughout treatment. This builds a solid doctor/patient relationship and can mean friend and family referrals if results are favorable. Another benefit is the positive job outlook. Orthodontic care is becoming more and more popular for both youth and adults. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, job growth is projected to increase steadily throughout the near future.
What Is the Job Outlook for Orthodontists?
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2014 there were just under 10,000 orthodontists in the United States. This was the largest group of dental specialists in the United States, and projections say that number will only increase. The BLS predicts the number of orthodontists will increase 18 percent by 2024.
Becoming an orthodontist is not an easy task, but it is worth the hard work. With a salary that rivals a medical doctor and a healthy job outlook for the future, orthodontics is an appealing profession. If you enjoy making a difference in your patient’s life and correcting embarrassing or painful oral issues, orthodontics may be the career choice for you.
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