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Orthodontics is a specialist branch of dentistry concerned with the growth of the teeth, jaws and face. Orthodontic treatment can straighten irregular or uneven teeth and correct abnormalities of the jaw, improving appearance and making it easier to eat. This improves dental health and can also increase a patient's self-confidence and mental and physical well-being. Most patients are children and young people although adults may also be treated.

  • Orthodontists begin by examining a patient's mouth and teeth. They usually also take photographs, x-rays and impressions (moulds of the patients teeth).
  • They explain to the patient the options for treatment and recommend which option they think would be best. They also explain how the patient should care for their teeth during and after treatment.
  • Treatment almost always involves fitting braces. Braces can be fixed, removable or a combination of the two. Sometimes it may be necessary to extract some teeth as well. Very occasionally jaw surgery is required.
  • Orthodontists see the patient regularly to check on their progress and make any necessary adjustments to braces.

Orthodontists' hours vary according to their place of work. Many orthodontists work regular hours, but those working in hospitals are likely to share an on-call rota for evening and weekend work. There are opportunities for part-time work.

Income varies depending on whether the individual works in a salaried post in hospital or university or whether they work in a specialist practice. In specialist practice income ranges from around £70,000 a year for an associate orthodontist (self-employed but working in a practice owned by someone else) to over £150,000 a year for some of those who run their own private practice.

An orthodontist should:

  • have good hand-eye coordination
  • have excellent communication skills
  • be able to gain the trust of patients
  • be interested in science and healthcare
  • enjoy working with people, especially children and teenagers.

There are opportunities throughout the UK. Many orthodontists are self-employed and work within specialist practices. Others work in hospital dentistry and in the Community Dental Service. A small number teach orthodontics in universities.

All orthodontists are qualified dentists who have undertaken additional training to become a specialist. For more general information about becoming a dentist, see Dentist.

Qualified dentists who wish to become orthodontists must apply for a place on an orthodontic training programme. They need a minimum of two years clinical experience before applying. They will generally have worked as a dentist and at the same time studied for the Diploma of Membership of the Joint Dental Faculties (MJDF) examination. This takes a minimum of two years to complete.

Although it is not an entry requirement to have the MJDF before applying for the orthodontic training programme it is recommended, as it shows evidence of broad-based knowledge and understanding. Entry is competitive and most applicants have this Diploma.

Orthodontic training lasts three years full time and combines academic study at a university with clinical training in a hospital. Students then take the Membership in Orthodontics (MOrth) examination to qualify in orthodontics.

During the 3-year programme trainees are required to study for a higher degree, such as a Master of Science (MSc) or a Doctorate of Dental Surgery (DDS). Continuing professional development (CPD) is essential to keep up to date with new developments and techniques.

Orthodontists aiming for a hospital consultant post must undertake two years of further training in a hospital prior to sitting the Fellowship of Dental Surgery in Orthodontics (FDS Orth). To teach and carry out research in a university, candidates also have to undertake further study to gain a PhD.

Orthodontists entering specialist practice may eventually become a partner or own their own practice. Those following a university career may eventually become a professor of orthodontics.

Further information

British Orthodontic Society, 12 Bridlewell Place, London, EC4V 6AP. 020 7353 8680. Website:

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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