You probably know that to have your teeth straightened, you go to an orthodontist. But you may not know exactly what it entails to be an orthodontist. Today, we’d like to enlighten you!
A Bit About Orthodontia
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.
An orthodontist, then, is a specialist in the field of orthodontics.
How is an orthodontist different from a dentist?
Your dentist and your orthodontist work together to care for 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 will see to 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?
To become an orthodontic specialist in Canada, you have to become a dentist first! In all, becoming a certified specialist in orthodontics usually takes about 12 years of formal university education. It’s a significant commitment!
An orthodontist’s university career starts off with a four-year bachelor’s degree, usually a Bachelor of Science. Next comes dental school, which also 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.