An orthodontist is a specialist who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. All orthodontists are dentists but only about six percent of dentists are orthodontists. Admission to orthodontic programs is extremely competitive and selective.
Orthodontists regularly treat young children, teens and adults. Selecting an orthodontist who is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is your assurance that you have chosen an orthodontic specialist. Only orthodontists may be members of the AAO.
It takes many years to become and orthodontist and the educational requirements are extensive. An orthodontist must complete college requirements before starting a three- to five- year graduate program at a dental school accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA). After dental school, at least two or three academic years of advanced specialty education at an ADA-accredited orthodontic program are required to be an orthodontist. The demanding program includes advanced education in biomedical, behavioral and basic sciences. The orthodontic student learns the complex skills required to manage tooth movement (orthodontics) and guide facial development (dentofacial orthopedics.) only dentists who have successfully completed these advanced specialty education programs may call themselves orthodontists.