If you need to get your teeth straightened, you know to go see an orthodontist. However, you may not know exactly what an orthodontist's skill set entails. Here is some information about orthodontists and what they do.
Orthodontia (or orthodontics) is a specialty in the field of dentistry. Orthodontia focuses on the treatment of teeth irregularities (alignment and occlusion irregularities in particular), as well as the jaws.
As you probably know, it often involves the application of braces to treat these issues.
What differentiates an orthodontist from a dentist?
Your dentist and orthodontist work as a team to take care of your oral health. You dentist cares for your general dental health, and when it comes to some of the oral health issues outlined above, the orthodontist takes care of your specific to your needs.
Think of it this way: just as you would go to a heart surgeon for heart surgery rather than your family doctor, you’ll go to an orthodontist if you need treatment for teeth and jaw alignment issues, rather than your dentist. Both are medical professionals, but one has more specific and detailed knowledge and experience in a certain area.
How is an orthodontist’s training different from a dentist’s?
In Canada, you have to become a dentist first before specializing in orthodontics. It takes approximately 12 years of formal university education to become an orthodontist. It’s a significant commitment!
An orthodontist’s university career starts off with a four-year bachelor’s degree, usually a Bachelor of Science. They then apply for dental school, and if accepted, takes 4 years to complete.
After these 8 years of university, the student graduates and officially becomes a general dentist! For many, a career as a general dentist starts at this point. For those who choose to pursue a dental specialty such as orthodontics, however, more schooling is necessary.
For an orthodontics specialty, the dental student must carry on with an additional 3-year Master of Science Degree and residency program. Depending on the school, the student may also have to complete an additional 1-2 years of formal training as a general dentist first, before to entering a specialty residency, such as a hospital residency.
After our aspiring orthodontist has graduated from the orthodontic specialty residency program, she must pass the national dental specialty board certification exam, governed by the Royal College of Dentists of Canada. If she passes, our student is officially a certified specialist on orthodontics.