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Orthodontics and Becoming an Orthodontist

Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry which provide treatment for malocclusion. An orthodontist also uses retainers and braces to set teeth in the right position using the right devices such as braces, headgears, and plates, among others. Dental clinics are now offering orthodontics services to make visits to the dentist more convenient, less time consuming, and provide innovative products like “invisible” braces.

Procedures done by orthodontists include closing wide gaps between teeth, making sure the teeth’s tips are aligned, straightening crooked teeth, helping improve oral functions such as eating and speech, maintaining long-term health of teeth as well as gums, and preventing excessive wear and tear of teeth.

What Malocclusion Is All About

“Bad bite” is the literal translation of malocclusion, the misalignment of teeth including a fault between the top and bottom sets of teeth which form the dental arches and make them appear crooked. This occurs in children whose teeth and jaws developed improperly due to injury to facial bones or teeth and frequency of thumb sucking, among other reasons. While malocclusion may be treated in an orthodontic office it involves long term treatment in some severe cases.

orthodontist salary

According to pediatric orthodontics, thumb sucking has been shown to result in deformation of teeth and their supporting bones. Although a malocclusion does not generally affect the individual’s physical health, it does have impact on the appearance of teeth and the shape of an individual’s face. These two factors often lead to embarrassment, loss of self-confidence, deterioration of self-esteem, stress, and depression.

Malocclusion Types

What do orthodontists do to treat malocclusions? There are several treatments for different kinds of malocclusion, meaning, the shape, degree of misalignment, and extent of inappropriate position of teeth are the determinants as to what kind of treatment the orthodontist will administer.

Here are the types of malocclusion:

  • Protrusion of front teeth:

the front teeth protrude and decrease the aesthetic value of a person’s face; protruding teeth are likely to injure their owners when they fall down or engage in sports.

  • Crowding teeth:

the patient has more teeth than space for them and may require removal of one or more of them to make room.

  • Impacted teeth:

teeth do not spurt in the right position when milk teeth fall off and permanent teeth come through in the gums.

  • Deep bite a.k.a. overbite:

the upper teeth come down over lower teeth way too much. Many orthodontist reviews list the overbite as one of the most common conditions requiring orthodontic treatment.

  • Reverse bite:

the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth when teeth are clenched.

  • Open bite:

this condition is an opening between the upper and the lower teeth is visible when teeth are clenched.

  • Asymmetrical teeth:

the upper and the lower teeth don’t match and show even with the mouth closed.

  • Underbite:

the so-called “bulldog” look occurs when the lower teeth are way too much forward while the upper teeth are way too far back.

  • Crossbite:

when teeth are clenched, one or two of them doesn’t come down in because it may be too near the tongue or cheek.

  • Spacing:

this is a condition is common in children when the mouth has too few teeth to fill it up or spaces appear between teeth because some of them are missing. This is a field of orthodontics for children that has been a popular practice for young dentists.

Orthodontic Appliances

Orthodontic appliances may be the removal or fixed variety. Fixed orthodontic appliances are used when precision is crucial. An orthodontist assistant may inform the patient of what kinds of foods and drinks to avoid like coffee, hard rolls or bread, toffee or any sticky candy, chewing gum, popcorn, etc.

Patients who are into contact sports are advised to wear gum shields when wearing fixed appliances. Fixed appliances or braces have remained popular amongst wearers of braces. Because of innovative orthodontics they now come in metal and tooth-colored ceramic varieties as well as those called lingual braces which are fitted behind teeth.

Types of Fixed Orthodontic Appliances

innovative orthodontics

Metal braces:

Made of stainless steel and attached to teeth with the use of filling material. Metal braces have an archwire ligated or tied into their brackets with colored rings made of elastic material. Reading orthodontics articles will tell you that these elastics may now also be colored silver to blend into the orthodontic appliance. Thicker wires which put greater force on teeth are sometimes used to tighten the appliance.

Ceramic fixed appliance:

This is aesthetically more pleasing to the eye because it is made from hard ceramic which is colored to make its appearance attractive. Typically the adult option for fixed orthodontic appliance, it is not always appropriate for lower teeth if the condition is an overbite. It can also prove difficult for removal by an orthodontic assistant, albeit they are not likely to damage what is otherwise healthy teeth.

Self-litigating appliance:

Major manufacturers of accelerated orthodontics produce their own brands of metal or ceramic “self-litigating” appliances. These use mechanisms of integral clips, instead of elastics, which hold orthodontic wires in position to enable easier sliding motions. Discoloring of self-litigating appliances is not likely, unlike that in ceramic fixed varieties.

Lingual fixed appliance:

Unlike the other appliances mentioned, the lingual type is invisible to everybody because of its attachment to the teeth’s inside surface. Many indicate the high quality that the lingual fixed appliance is capable of, albeit the cost is considerably more than the other appliances as well because of laboratory fee incurred in its production and the increased time in orthodontic surgery necessary for its adjustments.

Types of Removable Orthodontic Appliances


Unnoticeable by most people, aligners are often chosen by adults over traditional braces. These can be taken out before eating and brushing and flossing.


This is used to slow down the growth of the upper jaw, pull back front teeth, and keep back teeth in their position. The headgear consists of a strap wound around the back of the head that is attached in front to a metal wire.

Palatal expander:

This consists of a plate made of plastic placed in the roof of the mouth (the palate) which has screws exerting pressure on bone joints to force them all outward. This expands the palatal area’s size.

Removable retainers:

Designed to prevent teeth from going back to their original positions and are placed on the roof of the mouth or palate. Children who have retainers get discouraged from sucking their thumbs.


These are especially designed for the cheeks and lips to relieve pressure which normally accompanies the use of orthodontic appliances.

Becoming an Orthodontist

Orthodontics is not only a specialized field, it is also a lucrative one. A bachelor’s degree is required before gaining entry to a dental school, after which completion of a graduate program in orthodontics school is necessary. Residency with a dental clinic, a license and certification as an orthodontist are also required before you can practice the profession. Both the license and certification require you to pass written and oral examinations.

Orthodontist Salary

The salary of an orthodontist can vary widely depending on factors such as experience, which orthodontics school you graduated from and what your sub-specialty is, such as orthodontic surgery. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average orthodontist salary is $206,190, with the median hourly wage pegged at $99.13. The highest earners make $350/hour while the lowest earners make around $57.69.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Luke Yancey says:

    It makes sense that an overbite is the most common condition that orthodontists treat. When I was younger and I had braces, the main thing my orthodontist wanted to fix was my overbite. In fact, this was the case for most of my friends and family that had braces. Also, I heard that it is really difficult to become an orthodontist. You mentioned that you need to get a bachelor’s and then go to orthodontic school, but don’t you need to go to dental school as well?

    • Susan says:

      Hey Luke!

      I’m glad you asked.

      The requirements for becoming an orthodontist differ in each area. It’s nearly universal that you need a bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine or biology. It’s also universal that you are required to take special education in dental and orthodontic work.

      From there, it varies. In some countries, you can become an orthodontist through an apprenticeship program. It requires less in education, but much more in experience and hands-on learning. This was the basis of all doctors as little as 100 years ago.

      In other areas, you need a bachelor’s degree, then go on and complete dental school. From there, you are required to complete further orthodontic training.

      In nearly every case, the government will keep a record of dentists and orthodontists to make sure the standard of care remains high.

      You can check with your local licensing branch of regulations to discover what the particular education requirements are, plus the local and state licensing regulations.

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