how to become an orthodontist

Bachelor’s Degree

Before applying to, or attending dental school, a student must first complete their undergraduate studies. The fours years of undergraduate study are filled with opportunities to prepare a student for success as they seek higher education and eventually clinical training. If approached properly, success as an undergraduate can set the student apart in a competitive application climate by giving them experience that will help with their more advanced education, and by mastering the discipline necessary to complete all levels of study.

Dental School

Dental school is four years of intense study. In the first two years, the student will focus on scientific coursework that will prepare them for the clinical components of later years. These science courses go into great depth and detail, and challenge students to memorize and understand systems of the body that may be affected by their work as a dentist. Many students are surprised at how difficult and in-depth these courses are, which leads to high drop out rates for those who are not prepared. The more a student knows coming into dental school, the better study habits they have acquired, and the discipline and vision they have, can all contribute to their success during this challenging time.

When learning the clinical aspects of dental care, students will be under the direct supervision of an instructor or training dentist. They will be required to walk through every procedure presented to them, answer questions about the patient and procedure, and respond to feedback from observers. It is wise to know exactly what will be monitored for each procedure and be able to accept critique in order to improve and continue on during study.

Internships and Fellowships

Only about six-percent of dentists go on to further training to become an orthodontist. In order to specialize in orthodontics, students must complete a specialty segment of education after they graduate from dental school, which is highly competitive in nature and very selective. ADA accredited orthodontic programs are three- to five-years in length. During these programs, the student studies more in-depth biomedical, behavioral and basic sciences, is trained in, and practices the skills used to facilitate tooth movement, guide facial changes, and understand facial surgery, as well as diagnose and treat other problems related to the face and neck.


Each orthodontist must first pass an exam and become licensed as a dentist. This happens through certification exams that are given at various points throughout dental school. These exams include both knowledge of the sciences related to dentistry and the skills and knowledge required for clinical work.

After becoming a licensed dentist, the orthodontist must complete their specialized training. Following that, they can apply through the American Association of Orthodontics to take the board examination. The written part of the exam tests 27 different subjects to ensure the orthodontist has a complete knowledge of orthodontic theory and practice. The clinical part of the examination involves an entire set of case records that must be evaluated. The test-taker must then develop a treatment plan for the cases they are presented with.