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Orthodontics is a specialized field of oral healthcare. An orthodontist focuses on teeth and jaw realignment. To patients, they are best known as the dentist who recommends braces. While this career pays well relative to general dentistry, it also requires additional education and presents on-the-job stressors.
The average annual salary for orthodontists was $196,270, as of May 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This was well above the average pay for general dentists, which was $164,570. The average orthodontist also made roughly four times more than the $46,440 average worker across all occupations, according to the BLS.
Importance of the Work
While general dentists contribute to a healthy mouth and smile, orthodontists perform advanced work in teeth and jaw realignment. It often takes several years from an initial consultation with a patient to complete treatment. For top orthodontists, seeing a beautiful smile and the growth in patient confidence at the end of the process is one of the most personally satisfying rewards of the job, according to orthodontist Dr. Scott Newhart, a St. Louis orthodontist.
Orthodontists require more education than general dentists. After finishing an undergraduate degree, an orthodontist must complete a three- to five-year graduate program from an American Dental Association-accredited school and two to three years of advanced orthodontic certification training. Costs for orthodontics programs vary, but they are typically very expensive. One year of tuition, room and board, and fees in the University of Pennsylvania orthodontics program was $111,999 for the 2014-2015 year.
Pressure and Risks
Beyond the years and expense of advanced training, orthodontists also deal with the stress of facing an unhappy patient or parent if the years of treatment don't result in the desired result. Also, days working in the mouths of patients wears on some as well.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Orthodontists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Dentists, General
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
- Newhart Orthodontics: Career Opportunities: Becoming an Orthodontist
- DentalCare.com: Setting It Straight - Advanced Orthodontics
- Penn Dental Medicine: Orthodontic Residency Program: Annual Fees