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Whether you’re considering clear aligners or traditional braces, an orthodontist has the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

What’s the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?

A dentist is similar to your family doctor — great for check-ups and filling cavities. An orthodontist is a specialist who has two
to three years of additional education, and is an expert in straightening your teeth and choosing the treatment option that's best for you.

Only an orthodontist is an orthodontist.

Understanding Your Options

There are a lot of treatment options these days, from retainers to clear aligners to invisible, metal, ceramic and micro braces. They each have their uses. Orthodontists have the specialized knowledge to consider all possibilities, based on variables like your age, possible jaw imbalances, differences in the size of your teeth, and more. They know what to use and when to use it, and will work with you to make the best decision - for your best smile.

Braces

Clear Aligners

Archwires

Elastics

Retainers

Headgear

Other Devices

What makes me smile?

Amy N.

"Life makes me smile. The encounters with loving people, the joy of everyday life, and the simplicity of Mother Nature never fails to put a big smile on my face."

Patient of Dr. Donald W. Norton

Cape Coral, FL

Marci F.

""Dreaming big dreams and making them come true makes me smile.""

Patient of Dr. Lauren Hood-Olson

O'Fallon, IL

Makayla W.

""My family, orthodontist, and horses make me smile.""

Patient of Dr. Lauren Hood-Olson

O'Fallon, IL

Alayna K.

"Playing volleyball makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Scott E. Prose

St. Charles, IL

Anna T.

"Being home with friends and family for the holidays"

Patient of Dr. Scott E. Prose

St. Charles, IL

Heather H.

"I'm a dance teacher and my students put a smile on my face every day!"

Patient of Dr. Scott E. Prose

St. Charles, IL

Gina G.

"Friends and family make me smile"

Patient of Dr. Scott E. Prose

St. Charles, IL

Nichole H.

"Laughter is the key to happiness and makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Scott E. Prose

St. Charles, IL

Nikki A.

"The Chicago Blackhawks make me smile!!!"

Patient of Dr. Scott E. Prose

ST, charles IL

Barb H.

"People smiling at me makes me smile!"

Patient of Dr. Scott E. Prose

St. Charles, IL

Nathan S.

"The Chicago Blackhawks make me smile!!!"

Patient of Dr. Scott E. Prose

St. Charles, IL

Noah G.

"Snow storms make me smile."

Patient of Dr. Scott E. Prose

St. Charles, IL

Amber L.

"My kids make me smile every day!"

Patient of Dr. Ross Crist

Sioux Falls, SD

Grace G.

"Zac Efron makes me smile!!!"

Patient of Dr. Scott E. Prose

St. Charles, IL

Samantha

"My friends and my family make me smile. =)"

Patient of Dr. Christina Carter

Staten Island, NY

Sarah R.

"5 Seconds of Summer Band makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Donald W. Norton

Cape Coral, Florida

Joseph S.

"Playing baseball makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Donald W. Norton

Cape Coral, FL

Emalee F.

"Dance makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Richard Talbot

Citrus Heights, CA

Mindee Z.

"My daughter makes me smile!"

Patient of Dr. James Klarsch

St. Louis, MO

Elisabeth H.

"A warm cup of tea on a chilly day makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Stephen Weisner

Methuen, MA

Joyce O.

"Music makes me smile!"

Patient of Dr. Troy Gor

Houston, TX

Alex L.

"My family and horses make me smile!"

Patient of Dr. C. William Dabney

Midlothian, VA

McKenzie & Kayla J.

"Our braces make us smile!"

Patient of Dr. Damon DeArment and Dr. Daniel Lill

Winchester, VA

Robyn L.

"Puppies make me smile."

Patient of Dr. Jennifer Tan

Ottawa, Ontario

Bertina P.

"Seeing my beautiful smile makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Troy Gor

Katy, TX

Sergio H.

"My awesome straight teeth make me smile."

Patient of Dr. Troy Gor

Houston, Texas

Emily F.

"My parents and best friend make me smile."

Patient of Dr. Richard Talbot

Citrus Heights, California

Peyton

"Volleyball makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Rose Middleton

Montgomery, Tx

Kayleigh B.

"Being with my family."

Patient of Dr. Richard Talbot

Citrus Heights California

Seth W.

"Getting my braces off makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Richard Talbot

Citrus Heights, California

Sierra H.

"Friends."

Patient of Dr. Richard Talbot

Citrus Heights California

Amber

"An OSU Football win makes me smile!!"

Patient of Dean J. Kiourtsis

Grove City, Ohio

Kaley B.

"Summer time and my sister make me smile!"

Patient of Dean J. Kiourtsis

Grove City, Ohio

Alysse M.

"My little sister makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Troy Gor

Pasadena, Texas

Sesha B.

"My patients make me smile."

Patient of Dr. Troy Gor

Houston, Texas

Kacie M.

"My family makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Troy Gor

Pasadena, Texas

Amanda and Kayla M.

"My sister makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. James Klarsch

Town and Country, MO

Tracie L.

"My Monday night volleyball league makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Glenn Glassman

Maryland Heights MO

Mallory S.

"Something that makes me happy is when all of my girlfriends that I don't see all the time are able to get together to have a girls night!"

Patient of Dr. Glenn Glassman

Maryland Heights MO

Emily S.

"What makes me smile is spending time with my family and friends."

Patient of Dr. Glenn Glassman

Maryland Heights MO

Josh W.

"Hanging out with my friends and playing video games make me smile."

Patient of Dr. Glenn Glassman

St. Louis, MO

Max W.

"Funny things make me smile!"

Patient of Dr. Glenn Glassman

Maryland Heights MO

Luke M.

"My amazing girlfriend makes me smile!"

Wildwood, MO

Alex M.

"Having fun with friends makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Walde

Washington MO

Kelly Q.

"When I can put a smile on someone's face after they've had a bad day—that makes me smile."

Washington University Orthodontic School

Kamilyn Z.

"My new nephew!"

Patient of Dr. Ken Fischer

Villa Park, CA

Stephanie R.

"The St. Louis Cardinals make me smile."

Patient of Dr. James Klarsch

Town and Country, MO

Andrew V.

"Sunny days on my lunch break make me smile."

Patient of Dr. Bill Mastorakos

St.Louis, MO

Cinnia R.

"My boyfriend Nick!"

Patient of Dr. Jim Klarsch

Town and Country, MO

Blake M.

"Disney makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Jean McGill

Easton, PA

LeeAnn R.

"Hanging out and relaxing with my friends and family makes me smile."

Patient of Dr. Kenneth Messer

St. Louis, MO

Real patients show off their new smiles and tell you what they're smiling about.

Adult hall of fame

Dr. Steven Couch

Dary Stone

Pam Waterman

Amielle Abshire

Dr. Dorienne Taylor-Bishop

Dr. Nina Zeigler

This group of professionals opted to achieve a healthy, beautiful smile as adults. Learn more about their stories and treatment here.

View all the Hall of Famers

Ask an Orthodontist

If you're 18 or over, you can use this form to ask us general questions about orthodontic treatment. Our panel of AAO-member orthodontists will usually get back to you within two to three business days. Please browse the Frequently Asked Questions before submitting your question. You might find the answer is already there.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does orthodontic treatment cost?

The American Association of Orthodontists does not track fees for orthodontic treatment. The fee for an individual’s treatment is determined by a variety of factors, including the severity of the problem to be corrected, as well as the anticipated length of treatment. Fees may be different from orthodontist to orthodontist and from one region to another. The type of “appliance” (the formal name for braces, aligners, retainers, etc.) may also be a consideration.
According to the American Dental Association survey of dental fees for 2011 (its most recent study), the fee for comprehensive treatment of adolescents ranged from $4,500 to $6,360, and the fee for comprehensive treatment of adults ranged from $4,725 to $6,940.
Most orthodontists offer a variety of payment plans to make orthodontic care affordable. The plans offered likely vary from doctor to doctor. Each doctor sets his/her own policies on payment plans.
Payment plans may or may not require a down payment. Many orthodontists provide in-office financing for as long as 24 months with no interest charged. To help patients spread their payments over a longer period of time, some orthodontists may be able to connect patients with a third-party finance company. The advantage is that monthly payments over a longer period of time can be smaller than payments over 24 months. Be aware, however, that a third-party finance company will charge interest.
Some patients have dental insurance that includes orthodontic benefits that will cover a portion of the fee for treatment. Funds from flexible spending accounts (FSAs) can be used toward orthodontic treatment.
Talk to your orthodontist about how to maximize your benefits.

Will the orthodontist take my insurance? How much does insurance cover?

If you have dental insurance that includes orthodontic benefits, check with the insurance company or your employer’s HR department to learn details of the coverage available to you – whether coverage is for a percentage of the fee or is capped at a specific dollar amount (“lifetime cap”); who your policy covers (you, or you and your spouse, or you and your spouse and your children, etc., and whether insurance coverage has an age limit); and whether you are required to choose from the insurance company’s providers.
Do be sure that the provider you select for orthodontic treatment is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). AAO membership is your assurance that the doctor is an orthodontist because the AAO accepts only orthodontists as members. To be an orthodontist means the individual must first graduate from dental school, and then successfully complete an additional 2-3 years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists.” And only orthodontists are eligible for admission into the American Association of Orthodontists.
Use the Find an Orthodontist service to locate nearby members of the American Association of Orthodontists.

Which treatment is the fastest?

Thanks to advances in technology, just about every type of treatment is relatively fast. These important steps will make your treatment go as quickly as possible: 1) Follow your orthodontist’s instructions on brushing, flossing, professional cleanings, and diet. 2) Keep your scheduled appointments with your orthodontist. 3) Make sure your orthodontist is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). AAO members have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

Which treatment is the best?

The best treatment is the kind performed by an orthodontist. Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile. Choose a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) for orthodontic treatment to be assured that the doctor is an orthodontist – someone who first graduated from dental school and then went on for 2-3 more years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only these people can call themselves “orthodontists,” and only they can be admitted as members of the AAO. Use Find an Orthodontist to locate nearby members of the American Association of Orthodontists.

Do I have to have insurance to have orthodontic treatment?

No. Insurance is not required to have orthodontic treatment.

How do I find an orthodontist who takes Medicaid?

Contact the department within your state’s government that administers the Medicaid program and request a list of providers who are orthodontists.
If you have a Medicaid card, there may be a phone number to call for information. Your state’s Medicaid contact information might also be available online.
Do be sure that the provider you select for orthodontic treatment is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). AAO membership is your assurance that the doctor is an orthodontist because the AAO accepts only orthodontists as members. To be an orthodontist means the individual must first graduate from dental school, and then successfully complete an additional 2-3 years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists.” And only orthodontists are eligible for admission into the American Association of Orthodontists.
Use the Find an Orthodontist service to locate nearby members of the American Association of Orthodontists.

Is free orthodontic care available for patients in need? Does the American Association of Orthodontists offer scholarships for braces?

The American Association of Orthodontists does not provide funding for orthodontic treatment.
There are several programs that offer orthodontic treatment to patients in need at little or no cost.
The American Association of Orthodontists Donated Orthodontic Services Program (DOS) is offered to patients in need in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia. For information about eligibility, contact the DOS coordinator at the Dental Lifeline Network at 866-572-9390.
Smiles Change Lives and Smile for a Lifetime Foundation provide orthodontic treatment in many regions of the U.S.
Advantage Smiles for Kids provides orthodontic care to children who meet eligibility requirements in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
The Colorado Orthodontic Foundation offers care for children in Colorado.
Two programs in South Dakota assist in providing orthodontic treatment to children who would not otherwise receive care: Assisting Children to Smile and Sunshyne Smiles Orthodontic Program.
Also check with your state or local dental society to ask if they are aware of any programs that exist in your area.

Are there orthodontic schools that treat patients?

Yes. Accredited orthodontic programs accept patients for treatment. The work is done by students, who have already graduated from dental school, and who are studying to become orthodontists. Students are closely supervised by their professors and instructors, who are orthodontists.
Find the list of accredited schools at https://www.aaoinfo.org/education/accredited-orthodontic-programs to learn if there is a school near you. Contact the school to find out how to become a patient.

What brands of treatment are approved by the American Association of Orthodontists?

The American Association of Orthodontists does not provide product reviews or recommendations. Please talk with your orthodontist about the types or brands of treatment that you are interested in so that together you can decide what is appropriate for you.
The type or brand of “appliance” (the formal name for devices like braces, aligners, etc.) used in orthodontic treatment is not as important as the skill in the hands person using the appliance.
Do be sure to seek out an orthodontist for orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists are dentistry’s specialists in moving teeth and aligning jaws to achieve a healthy bite. Orthodontists get to be specialists by graduating from dental school, and then successfully completing an additional 2-3 years of education in orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only people who have attained this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists,” and only orthodontists are accepted for membership in the AAO. By choosing an AAO member, the public is assured that the doctor truly is an orthodontist.
Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

How long does treatment last?

The average length of orthodontic treatment is 22 months, according to a 2012 survey among members of the American Association of Orthodontists.
Depending on the type of problem a patient has, treatment could range from 12 months to 36 months or more.

Can I get braces if I’m missing some teeth?

It may be possible for you to have successful orthodontic treatment if some teeth are missing, depending on your circumstances and your treatment goals. Orthodontic treatment may be able to close the space of a missing tooth, or may be able to create or save sufficient space for a replacement tooth/teeth. Consult an orthodontist to discuss what is right for you. Your orthodontist may need to work with your primary care dentist and/or other dental specialists to help you achieve optimal dental health.

Can I get braces if my teeth have crowns or root canals?

It may be possible for you to have successful orthodontic treatment if your teeth have crowns or root canals. Consult an orthodontist for answers that are specific to you and your circumstances.

What’s the ideal age for orthodontic treatment – is there one?

Chronological age is not a factor when deciding whether a patient is a candidate for orthodontic treatment; there is not one ideal age for treatment to begin. Healthy teeth can be moved at any age. Regardless of age, patients can look forward to teeth that not only look better, but work better, too.
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children get a check-up with an orthodontist at the first recognition of the existence of an orthodontic problem, but no later than age 7. Few patients will need to begin treatment that young, but there are some who will benefit from early intervention. For these patients, treatment is likely to consist of guiding the growth of the jaws so that the permanent teeth are in good positions as they come in. See the AAO’s brochure, Your Child’s First Orthodontic Check-up, and the AAO’s educational flier, , for information.
A check-up while some baby teeth are still present, and while the face and jaws are growing, may reveal that immediate treatment is not necessary, but that the child could benefit from treatment in the future. In these cases, the patient visits the orthodontist periodically to monitor growth and development. This “watchful waiting” gives the orthodontist the opportunity to advise parents when the best time is for that child to begin treatment. Often the orthodontist is able to take advantage of predictable periods of a patient’s growth and intervene so that orthodontic treatment can have the best results possible. There are some things that cannot be accomplished once the face and jaws are no longer growing.
Still, orthodontic treatment can be highly successful in adults. The physiological process of moving teeth is the same in adults as it is in children. Adult orthodontic treatment may take a little longer than children’s treatment due to denser bone tissue in adults. A new smile can be especially profound for adults who have spent years hiding their teeth.
Overall, the time required for orthodontic treatment is shorter than it was in the past. Members of the American Association of Orthodontists report that the average length of orthodontic treatment is 22 months.
Do be sure to seek out an orthodontist for orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists are dentistry’s specialists in moving teeth and aligning jaws to achieve a healthy bite.
Orthodontists get to be specialists by graduating from dental school, and then successfully completing an additional 2-3 years of education in orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only people who have attained this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists,” and only orthodontists are accepted for membership in the AAO. By choosing an AAO member, the public is assured that the doctor truly is an orthodontist.
Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

I had braces before, but my teeth are crooked again. I don’t want old-fashioned braces. What are my options?

Thanks to advances in technology, your next-to-invisible treatment options may include ceramic (tooth-colored) braces, lingual braces, which are placed behind the teeth, or clear aligner trays.
Today’s standard metal braces are much smaller and sleeker than those of even a generation ago, and less obvious than the braces you may have had.
Please review your options with an orthodontist at an in-person consultation to determine what type of treatment will be best suited to your needs.
Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.
Membership in the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is your assurance that the doctor is an orthodontist because the AAO accepts only orthodontists as members. To be an orthodontist means the individual must first graduate from dental school, and then successfully complete an additional 2-3 years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists.” And only orthodontists are eligible for admission into the American Association of Orthodontists.
Use the Find an Orthodontist service to locate nearby members of the American Association of Orthodontists.
Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

I lost my retainer. What can I do to keep my teeth from shifting?

Put in a call to your orthodontist right away to make arrangements for replacement retainers. Without retainers, there can be unwanted movement of teeth.
See this video for information about retainers.

If I wear extra rubber bands, will that speed up my treatment?

No. You could potentially prolong your treatment by wearing extra rubber bands because the extra force could move your teeth in an undesirable way.
To finish your treatment on time and with good results, follow your orthodontist’s instructions on wearing rubber bands, and any other item that you place and remove. Also be sure to brush and floss with the frequency your orthodontist recommends, and see your dentist for professional cleanings and check-ups at least every six months during orthodontic treatment, or more often if recommended.

I met with an orthodontist. Should I get a second opinion?

Whether to seek a second opinion is up to you. Ultimately, you should feel confidence in the orthodontist you select for your orthodontic treatment, and trust the ability of the orthodontist and his/her staff to provide you with the best possible care.
You may have already had more than one orthodontist recommended to you by family, friends or your dentist.
Seeking out a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) assures you that if you do opt for a second opinion, that it will come from an educationally qualified orthodontic specialist. Use the Find an Orthodontist service to locate nearby AAO members. The AAO accepts only orthodontists as members. To be an orthodontist means the individual must first graduate from dental school, and then successfully complete an additional 2-3 years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have attained this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists.” And only orthodontists are eligible for admission into the American Association of Orthodontists.
Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

I have seen three orthodontists. They each offer a different treatment plan. Which one is right?

There is not a single “right way” to perform orthodontic treatment. As long as all of the doctors you have consulted are orthodontists, all are correct.
Membership in the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is your assurance that the doctor is an orthodontist because the AAO accepts only orthodontists as members. To be an orthodontist means the individual must first graduate from dental school, and then successfully complete an additional 2-3 years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists.” And only orthodontists are eligible for admission into the American Association of Orthodontists.
Use the Find an Orthodontist service to locate nearby members of the American Association of Orthodontists.
Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

I have been considering braces. My teeth on the top aren't that crooked. Is it possible just to get braces on the bottom?

Whether orthodontic treatment on just your bottom teeth will properly align those teeth with your upper teeth is something that can only be answered by visiting an orthodontist for an exam and consultation.
Orthodontic treatment is designed to develop teeth that fit well and, as a result, wear better over an individual’s life. Think of the teeth in the mouth as a “gear” system. Teeth, like gears, must intermesh well to help avoid excessive wear throughout a lifetime of use.
Please consult a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) to learn what type of treatment will be best for you. AAO membership is your assurance that the doctor is an orthodontist because the AAO accepts only orthodontists as members. To be an orthodontist means the individual must first graduate from dental school, and then successfully complete an additional 2-3 years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists.” And only orthodontists are eligible for admission into the American Association of Orthodontists.
Use the Find an Orthodontist service to locate nearby members of the American Association of Orthodontists.
Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

What do the initials mean after an orthodontist’s name?

Orthodontists educated in the U.S. will have the initials “DDS” or “DMD” after their names. These initials mean the individual graduated from dental school. “DDS” stands for “Doctor of Dental Surgery.” “DMD” stands for “Doctor of Dental Medicine.” Some dental schools confer the DDS, while other schools confer the DMD. The American Dental Association considers DDS and DMD to be equivalent degrees.
Orthodontists may or may not have additional initials that announce their post-graduate education. There is not a collective set of initials that mean that the person has graduated from an orthodontic program. Some accredited orthodontic programs confer a certificate when an individual successfully completes the program; certificates carry no additional initials. Other accredited orthodontic programs confer a degree. There are many variations of the advanced degrees conferred. Common ones include MS, MSc, and MSD, which represent master’s degrees.
By selecting a member of the American Association of Orthodontists, you are assured that the doctor is an orthodontist, someone who first graduated from dental school and then successfully completed an additional 2-3 years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have attained this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists,” and only orthodontists are accepted for membership in the AAO. By choosing an AAO member, the public is assured that the doctor truly is an orthodontist.

I am 76 years old and considering orthodontic treatment. Is there an orthodontist in my area who specializes in senior citizens?

Members of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) regularly treat adult patients. About one patient in five is an adult. Many patients are in their 50s, 60s, and 70s.
Use the Find an Orthodontist service to locate nearby AAO members.
Healthy teeth can be moved at any age. Depending on your circumstances, your orthodontist may work with your primary care dentist and other dental specialists, as necessary, to help you achieve optimal dental health.
Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

My child has a wire poking his cheek. What do I do?

The quickest route to relief is to take a piece of orthodontic wax and place it over the wire. See other suggestions at https://www.aaoinfo.org/practice/patient-management/patient-education/handling-orthodontic-emergencies. Look for the heading “Protruding Wire.”
Call your orthodontist to find out if your child needs to be seen to have his/her appliance repaired.

I'm a student and was wondering if I could ask a few questions for a class. We are required to have an "interview" with someone who works in the career we are aspire to. I am hoping one day that I will become an orthodontist.

Please contact an orthodontist in your area to conduct an interview. But here is some information that may be helpful.
The name of the specialty is orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. “Orthodontics” refers to moving teeth through bone. “Dentofacial orthopedics” refers to guidance of the growth of teeth and bone. An orthodontist is a specialist in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.
There are three steps in an orthodontist’s education: college, dental school, and then orthodontic school. All orthodontists are dentists first. (Only about 6% of dentists are orthodontists.) It takes 10 or more years to become an orthodontist after graduating from high school.
After completing college requirements, the prospective orthodontist attends dental school. For information on dental school, visit the American Dental Association’s website at http://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/.
After graduating from dental school, the future orthodontist will need to attend two to three academic years in an orthodontic program accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation to acquire advanced education in biomedical, behavioral and basic sciences. The orthodontic student learns the complex skills required to manage tooth movement (orthodontics) and guide facial development (dentofacial orthopedics). To find accredited orthodontic schools, visit https://www.aaoinfo.org/education/accredited-orthodontic-programs.
High school and college students are encouraged to take courses in science and math in preparation for admission to dental school. Courses in psychology, business and art can be helpful. Psychology courses may help a future orthodontist understand what “makes a patient tick.” Business courses are good because about three of four orthodontists own their own practices, so a background in managing a business, including accounting and human resources, will be helpful. And because orthodontics is so much about form and symmetry, classes in art may be helpful to train the eye.
Some students are curious about the degrees orthodontists have. Those usually include a bachelor’s degree (usually a B.S.) from an undergraduate program, and a dental school degree, which would be either a DDS or DMD, depending on the U.S. school attended. When it comes to orthodontic education, what is conferred for these post-graduate studies depends upon the orthodontic program attended. Some schools grant a certificate upon graduation, while others grant a post-graduate degree (which could be a variety of different degrees; examples are MS and MSD).
Read history articles to learn about the specialty, how it came to be, and some of the people who have made contributions to it over the years: https://www.aaoinfo.org/about/mission-history.
Review patient/consumer brochures are posted at https://www.aaoinfo.org/practice/patient-management/patient-education/consumer-education-brochures. Reading them can give you some basic information.

Is it OK to drink soda pop when you have braces on?

Whether in braces or using another type of orthodontic appliance, patients should limit their intake of soda pop (even diet soda pop), some juices and some sports drinks. Soda pop contains acid that can weaken tooth enamel. Some juices and sports drinks contain a lot of sugar.
Drinking excessive amounts of any liquids with sugar and/or acid could lead to cavities.
It’s best to consult your orthodontist about what kinds of soft drinks and juices are permissible for you while you have on braces, aligners, retainers or any other kind of orthodontic appliance. Your orthodontist’s goal is to keep your teeth healthy so you have a great result from your orthodontic treatment.

I was wondering if you could tell me some information about tongue piercing. I am considering getting it done, but before I can, I have to prove to my mom that it is not dangerous.

There are numerous potential problems from oral piercings, which can include the tongue, cheeks, lips or uvula (the tissue at the back of the throat).
Particularly with tongue piercing, you can permanently damage your teeth by wearing away the enamel, or by chipping or cracking teeth. There is risk of abrasion of gum tissue if it is constantly hit by the piercing.
Piercing can interfere with basic functions like chewing, swallowing, talking and the sense of taste. A hole from a piercing can be a path for germs into the body and bloodstream.
Talk to your orthodontist or dentist for more information.

I have a special event coming up soon and I would really like my braces off.

It is quite common for patients who have been in treatment for a time to want to conclude treatment. They see major changes in the appearance of the positions of their teeth and think that they have achieved treatment goals. Patients cannot see what the orthodontist sees, however.
As the treating orthodontist, your doctor’s job is to provide his/her patients with a healthy and beautiful smile. It’s achieved by creating proper “occlusion” – meaning the way that top teeth and bottom teeth meet. Nature designed teeth to work in unison for optimal function. Your orthodontist is working toward making sure your occlusion is the best it can be, so that teeth meet in a healthy way. When they do, they will function well and look good, too. And last a lifetime.
Please be patient while your orthodontist makes the precise adjustments to your teeth and allows the bone to harden around them. It is being done for your long-term oral health and stability of your treatment results. When the time comes that your braces are removed, do be sure to follow your orthodontist’s prescription for retainer wear. Retainers are the patient’s best way to preserve the results of treatment so that they can have a healthy, beautiful smile for a lifetime.

I have one turned tooth. Will a rubber band help align it?

Self-treatment is not advisable. Dental and orthodontic treatment should always be conducted under the supervision of a licensed healthcare professional.
Patients should be aware that “do-it-yourself” treatment substantially increases the risk of irreparable damage.
For example, rubber bands can work their way under the gumline and, over time, if forgotten or not removed, can strangle the root of the tooth, and kill the tooth. That could lead to the need for an extraction.
If a tooth has rotated, something within the oral cavity caused it. Please consult an orthodontist to understand what has caused your tooth to turn, and how it can be corrected.
Find members of the American Association of Orthodontists near you using Find an Orthodontist.
Do be sure to consult with a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). AAO membership is your assurance that the doctor is an orthodontist because the AAO accepts only orthodontists as members. To be an orthodontist means the individual must first graduate from dental school, and then successfully complete an additional 2-3 years of studying orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have this level of formal education may call themselves “orthodontists.” And only orthodontists are eligible for admission into the American Association of Orthodontists.
Orthodontists have the training, experience and treatment options to make sure you get your best smile.

Are there board-certified orthodontists?

Yes, some orthodontists are board-certified by the American Board of Orthodontics. Board-certified orthodontists are known as Diplomates of the American Board of Orthodontics. The American Board of Orthodontics is the only boarding organization for the orthodontic specialty that is recognized by the American Dental Association.

Can you tell me whether orthodontic expenses are tax deductible as a medical expense?

Please check with your tax advisor for a response specific to your circumstances.
In general, orthodontic treatment falls under the IRS description of medical and dental expenses that may be deductible from taxable income if the taxpayer meets the overall limits.
Some people use an employer benefit called an FSA (flexible spending account) to cover some or all of their orthodontic expenses. FSAs are funded by pre-tax dollars and have an annual limit.

What are the pros and cons of the orthodontic technique of “shaving” and “stripping” teeth?

Please review the AAO’s brochure Interproximal Reduction: Reducing Tooth Width for Form, Function and Stability and discuss your questions with your orthodontist.

Will my braces set off the metal detectors in the airport?

You are cleared for takeoff – the lightweight materials used in braces will not affect metal detectors.

Please fill out all fields. Sorry, we can't provide a second opinion or answer questions about fees, insurance, a specific individual's diagnosis, treatment plan, appliances used, etc. For those types of questions, we invite you to consult an AAO orthodontist. Read our Terms of Use for full information.

 


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Videos

Why you should get orthodontic treatment

Everyone wants a great smile, and your orthodontist is a specialist in making your smile the best it can be. Straight teeth not only look good, they also give you a good bite. Your upper and lower teeth fit together the way they should, so it's easier to bite, chew and speak.

A great smile helps you feel better and more confident. It can literally change how people see you – at work and in your personal life. To see how much better your smile can be, find an orthodontist near you.

Positive aging through orthodontics

Ready to witness the life-changing effects of orthodontic treatment? These videos illustrate how orthodontics can help patients of any age look better throughout their entire lives. The ‘stars’ of these reality videos are actual patients of AAO member Dr. David Sarver of Birmingham, Alabama, a pioneer in the field of facial esthetics. He meticulously documented the progress of these patients to show how the face can be altered through orthodontic treatment. The images, and the results, are real!

Why an orthodontist?