What is an orthodontist?
All orthodontists are dentists but not all dentists are orthodontists. What we commonly call orthodontists are actually specialists in the area of orthodontics (straightening teeth) and dento-facial orthopedics (the bones that support the teeth and make up a large part of the face). It is this combined understanding that allows orthodontists to not only align teeth but align them to fit and function to chew and speak, all while having a fantastic smile. Think of it as having face, bite, and function in balance.
What does it take to become an orthodontist?
Post-doctoral programs in orthodontics are very competitive to get into. For most programs, you need to be in the top 10% of your dental class to even apply — top gun, the best of the best. Like medical residencies, residency programs in orthodontics have a match program and most are now three years.
What is an orthodontic program like?
Orthodontic residency programs are a combination of didactic classes (seminars and lectures) and clinical training. Clinical training involves working in an orthodontic clinic in a University setting and hospital rotations to address severe craniofacial developmental syndromes (such as cleft palates) or skeletal disharmonies (such as severely long or short jaws) that require surgical skeletal intervention. This means that orthodontists have a depth of experience. They are able to work with routine cases in
straightening teeth, but they are also able to identify cases that look routine on the surface while having significant underlying issues and bring those cases to successful outcomes.
Thinking Like an Orthodontist
Like an architect, an orthodontist plans and builds beautiful faces and smiles that are functional (a great place to live in and a smile to share with others). To do this they need records to assess the underlying jaw patterns (the skeletal foundations) and assess where the teeth are and where they can be moved to achieve an overall goal. Orthodontists are experts in evaluating X-rays, using both 2D and 3D and planning for the teeth’s final position to achieve this goal. This is why your orthodontist collects
beginning records before treatment. Once the orthodontist has a plan, then he can choose a delivery system (traditional braces, lingual braces, aligners, etc.) to achieve the final goal. With the advent of digital technology, this planning process can become much more accurate and predictable. It is important to remember that it is the orthodontist’s planning, not the technology used, that creates a beautiful balanced and functional smile.
Remember it is the artist, not the brushes, that make a beautiful painting. As in works of art, minor revisions are sometimes needed to respond to the patient’s biology and realize the planned outcome.
No One Works Alone
Your orthodontist works with your dentist and other dental specialists to create and execute the plan for your treatment. Some treatments are straightforward, while others are severely complicated. The specialized training that orthodontists spend years learning is the key that makes this happen, and most of the time it is the orthodontist who is at the center of the planning.
We Love What We Do
Taking care of you and your family is our primary concern. Orthodontics, like all healthcare, is a partnership between you and your doctor. We want to treat patients, but we want to treat them at the right time for them. Understanding how the head and mouth grow is very important to understanding treatment timing. For this reason, we want to get to know you and your family early and follow growth to minimize developing problems and ultimately reduce the amount of time and treatment needed. The AAO recommends seeing an orthodontist by age 7 to assess growth and development. Even so, improving health with a beautiful smile can be done at any age, and we are always there for our patients, their parents, and even grandparents.