Orthodontist Career Information

Orthodontists are dental specialists that use treatments to straighten teeth.

Basic Tasks

Based on the recommendation of a dentist, an orthodontist will see a patient and examine their teeth to determine the appropriate treatment plan. An orthodontist will correct overbites, underbites, overlapping teeth and underdeveloped lower jaws, by installing fixed and functional appliances. They will visually examine teeth, take photographs and X-rays and devise a treatment plan based on outcomes and different treatment options available to complete the problem.

An orthodontist will also recommend that a patient will also see other dental care professionals, such as periodontists, so they can complete their treatment plan. They may also work with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who will operate on the jaws, face and mouth of a patient. Occasionally these types of surgeries are required before an orthodontist can proceed with their treatment plan.

During the course of the day, an orthodontist will see many patients. With the help of orthodontist assistants, some orthodontists will see two or more patients at the same time. They will install appliances, evaluate the progression of treatment, move to the next stage of the treatment outlined by the plan and remove the appliance once treatment is completed. They also provide patient education about caring for their appliances, cleaning teeth while encased in an appliance and using the appropriate measures, such as retainer, to maintain the affects of the procedure after treatment is completed. They also provide advice about pain management, since some procedures can be very painful in the early stages. They also calm patient fears about treatment and talk to their patients about self esteem issues, either when deciding if the procedure's outcome is worth the time of treatment or while the patient is undergoing treatment. Their relationship with a patient can last two or more years and orthodontists see patients of all ages, from children and adolescents to adults.

New orthodontict treatments are always being developed, so most orthodontists are engaged in ongoing professional development by joining professional associations and attending conferences. They may also be engaged in research and product testing.


Most orthodontists work full-time, Monday through Friday, sometimes on the weekend in case of emergencies or if patient's experience excessive pain from their procedures. Orthodontists that own their own practice can set their own hours, either starting their day very early in the morning, so they can see patients before school or work, or late into the evening for the same reasons.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for orthodontists is $93.72, which provides for an annual salary of $194,930. The top paying states are Washington, New
Mexico and South Carolina.


Most orthodontists work in private practice and are either self-employed or employed with a partner orthodontist. Most orthodontists will share a practice so they can act as relief to the other orthodontist in case of emergencies or if the orthodontist would like to attend professional development opportunities or take holidays.

Some orthodontists are employed by hospitals where they provide orthodontic services, usually to correct issues caused by other conditions.