Since the study of orthodontics is so complex, residency programs have been established that require an additional two to three years of full time study beyond dental school. There are 52 orthodontic programs in the United States that are accredited by the American Dental Association. Only graduates of these programs are permitted to practice orthodontics as a specialist. In fact, only graduates of these programs can become members of the American Association of Orthodontists.
Most of you probably do not know that orthodontics was the first recognized specialty in the field of dentistry. In the early 1900's, the dental profession realized that orthodontic treatment was so complex and comprehensive that additional training was necessary to perform this aspect of dentistry. This led to the development of orthodontic training programs to be completed after dental school.
So, what does it take to become an orthodontic specialist today? First, it requires three to four years of undergraduate studies at a college or university. This usually results in a bachelor's degree of one kind or another. As long as you have completed the appropriate courses, it is possible to apply for admission to dental schools.
All dental school programs in the United States are either four or five years in duration. Upon completion of dental school, a doctoral degree is received. Some dental schools give a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree (D.D.S.), while others give a Doctor of Medical Dentistry degree (D.M.D.). These degrees are the same. At this point, individuals are able to practice as general dentists. It would require an additional two to three years of full time study to practice orthodontics as a specialty.
So you see, becoming an orthodontist requires many years of education and training. If you are interested in learning more about our profession, please call our office.