Orthodonty – the work an orthodontist does – is a type of dentistry which deals with misaligned teeth, which may prevent the patient from biting properly or may affect their facial appearance. People working in this field belong to a tradition dating back to at least 1000 B.C.E., long before other forms of medicine and dentistry.
Orthodontists mainly take a gentle approach to their work, gradually re-aligning teeth with the use of orthodontic wires, braces and plates, and sometimes more complicated headgear. Treatment might sometimes also involve surgery on the jaw bone, although this is more common with adult cases.
Orthodontists are specialists within the field of dentistry; in fact, orthodonty was the very first specialism within dentistry. Those wishing to pursue a career as an orthodontist have to first train in mainstream dentistry, then choose further study in orthodontics when they pursue post-graduate training. It can take between six and ten years to become a qualified orthodontist, depending on the country you train in: in the U.S., orthodontic hopefuls should first complete a college degree (in a related medical field is best, such as medicine or nursing), then a graduate program with a school accredited by the American Dental Association, which takes a further four years, before two to three years of specialty education in a similarly accredited orthodontic residential program. The good news is, after this lengthy training program, a newly qualified orthodontist will work in a specialty only six percent of dentists can provide.
The average local dentist is a good person to talk to for anyone who is interested in becoming a dentist or orthodontist. Peridontist and Professor of the University Illinois at Chicago Dental School, Kathy H. Jean, DDS, recommends that people wanting to pursue specialist dentistry after college take sciences including chemistry, biology, physics, calculus and English, as well as some other GPA-boosting subjects (such as a foreign language) to qualify for graduate school. Applicants for dental graduate programs have to take the DAT (Dental Administration Test), a general entrance exam similar to the MCAT(the Medical College Administration Test), and study books for this test can be tracked down through the American Student Dental Association in Chicago. Professor Jean also notes that places for orthodontic residency are highly competitive, so hopefuls have to work hard during their dental qualification to have the best chance to be chosen.
This is similar in Britain and Europe. In Australia students must complete a five-year Bachelor of Dentistry, then a three-year Masters in Orthodontics. Indian orthodontists have a slightly more complicated process to undergo, with a few approaches depending on the area in which they train. One option is to undertake a Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Pre-Dental/Pre-Medical All-India Entrance Examination, which accounts for 15% of high school leavers who complete a basic degree. After this, there is yet another exam, conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for post-graduate medical training, before specialist training.
American readers should consult the American Board of Orthodontics.
A handy website for UK-based students looking to become an orthodontist is the British Orthodontic Society, www.bos.org.uk. This website has some good tips on how to get ahead of the competition when pursuing orthodonty.
Readers based in Europe, Asia and Australia should consult their local universities for more information.
To comprehend the complicated process of qualifications in India, readers should try the Indian Orthodontic Society. Another excellent site for information on Indian entrance requirements is dget.nic.in/cirtes/csc/courses/Admission_to_dental_courses.htm