What is an orthodontist?
An orthodontist is a dental professional who has qualified as a dentist and then undergone further specialist training in orthodontics.
Orthodontics is an area of dentistry that’s concerned with correcting crooked teeth and jaws. Usually, this is done using braces, which now come in many shapes and forms, including hidden lingual braces and Invisalign clear aligners (pictured below). While many people undergo orthodontic treatment to improve the appearance of their smile, it can also help to improve the functionality and health of your teeth.
Despite its association with teenagers, anyone can benefit from braces and orthodontists are now treating an increasing number of adults thanks to the growing popularity of ‘invisible’ braces.
What training has an orthodontist undergone?
In the UK, it takes five years to qualify as a dentist and specialist orthodontic training takes a further three years. There’s fierce competition for orthodontic training posts and applicants need to be able to demonstrate experience in a range of specialities and experience of dealing with complex cases.
Specialist orthodontic training is full-time and a mixture of theory and hands-on practice. At the end of the course, students will achieve a Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training and can register as a specialist orthodontist with the General Dental Council.
Do orthodontists only straighten teeth?
Although orthodontists have the expertise to provide a wide range of dental services, they will usually only offer orthodontic treatment once they’ve qualified in this area. They may provide complementary treatments such as teeth whitening or tooth reshaping; but for most general dental treatments, they can refer you to another member of the team.
Some orthodontists will provide a mixture of NHS and private treatment, while others will only offer self-funded private treatment. This can depend on the availability of NHS funding in their area. NHS orthodontic treatment is usually only available to under 18s who need treatment to improve their dental health.
Like all members of the dental team, orthodontists are required to undergo ‘continuing professional development’ (CPD) which involves further training to improve their skills and experience beyond their qualification. CPD is important for ensuring that clinicians stay committed to improving their skills and learning the latest techniques.
Can only orthodontists straighten teeth?
In the UK, dentists can also provide orthodontic treatment – specialist training is not a prerequisite – and other courses are available to dental graduates with an interest in teeth straightening. Most of the time, dentists who offer orthodontics will carry out cosmetic cases and refer more complex problems onto their specialist colleagues.