Orthodontist Salary: Too good to be true!

orthodontist salary average

Orthodontists are professionals specialized in performing dental procedures which affect teeth’s functionality. They perform a variety of teeth treatments including mounting dental brackets, fixing malocclusion and guiding facial development. The procedures have both an aesthetic and a functional compound and are considered more complicated and time consuming that the ones performed in the dentist’s office. Therefore, the studies and the salary grow exponentially for orthodontists. Below you will find a detailed list with their income and the orthodontist salary variations in United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia, as well as few more details about the job and the necessary steps to achieve such a qualification.

Job description

Orthodontists are usually associated with braces. While straightening crooked teeth with braces is probably the most common procedure performed by orthodontists, they do much more than that:

    • they diagnose jaw and dental problems and devise appropriate treatment for them;
    • they fit dental appliances meant to realign patient’s teeth, correct teeth misplacement, alter the relationship between teeth and jaws;
    • they monitor and adjust dental appliances regularly in order to obtain best results and
    • they design and make different specific appliances (labial and lingual arch wires, maintainers and retainers) to treat patient’s teeth and/or jaw problems.

Orthodontists can work along with other dental specialists to diagnose teeth problems using X-rays and plaster molds of the patient’s teeth. Some orthodontists like to do these procedures all by themselves, especially if they are appropriately trained. Orthodontists also work with dental surgeons for cross interventions and treatments which need both specialists.

How to Become an Orthodontist

Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry; therefore the basic education needed to become an orthodontist is similar to the one necessary to become a dentist. However, the education and training for an orthodontist are longer and costlier that those of a dentist. Hence the higher costs for services performed by orthodontic technicians.

In order to become an orthodontist in US, the individual must complete 2 to 3 years of undergraduate dental education. Science major is not compulsory, but it increases the chances of being accepted to a dental college. The applicant must, however, study biology and chemistry in order to attend a specialized school. Other specialized courses will be taken in order to get familiarized with dental structure and frequent teeth problems. Bachelor degree in dentistry is essential when willing to become an orthodontist. There are, however, cases in which the candidates are accepted to the dental school after 3 or even 2 years of college and obtain their bachelor degree while also attending the courses of the dental school.  Once the Bachelor Degree is obtained, the candidate must pass a Dental Admission Test given by the American Dental Association. This test will open the gates for the specialty courses, which usually take 4 years. During this time, students are encouraged to take voluntary positions in order to gain experience.

In Australia the orthodontists-to-be need to fulfill a 5 years dental Bachelor Degree in Dentistry (fulltime) and have a Master’s Degree in Orthodontics (fulltime, 3 years) in order to apply for a job in the field. Once these diplomas are obtained, the graduate must be registered as a Specialist in Orthodontics by a State Dental Board. The Australian universities which offer Orthodontics programs are University of Adelaide, University of Melbourne, University of Queensland, University of Sidney and University of Western Australia. Orthodontists which have been trained in another country should check the Australian Dental Council to find out if their training is enough to work in the field in Australia.

General information on the orthodontist salary

The median salary for an orthodontist in US is around $190,000 with significant differences registered around the country. The type of establishment in which the orthodontist works is also highly influential when it comes to its final income. Hence, the orthodontists working in offices of dentists have a median wage of $196,170 per year (with a hourly rate of $94.31), the ones working in offices of other health practitioners have an income of $192,600 per year ($92.60 per hour), while the ones working in the outpatient care centers earn $203,000 per year (with an hourly rate of $97.60). The highest paid orthodontist positions are the ones from the offices of physicians, which ensure a wage of $232,360.

The median salary in Canada is $106,578, but again the individual income is influenced by a variety of factors, listed below. In Australia the average salary is lower than the previously mentioned countries, ranging around $63,423.

Orthodontists have a number of other benefits which add up to the overall income. They benefit from paid time off, bonuses for great number of patients, social security contributions and 401K/403B. Orthodontists also benefit from healthcare and pension, which makes this profession a safe choice for those who want an ensured future.

Orthodontist Salary Per Year

The total earnings of an orthodontist are influenced by a great variety of factors. From the years of experience to the area in which the orthodontist has his/her office, the salary varies consistently. Here are the factors which have the largest impact on the overall revenue.

  • Experience

Whether employed in a public health office or working in a private facility, the orthodontist’s experience has a great impact on the overall earnings. For example, the US beginners start at around $60,000 per year, while a reputed orthodontist can reach up to $250,000 per year or even more. There are many reasons why experienced orthodontists have higher revenue, but the most important ones are the already established reputation and recurring clients. Also, experienced orthodontists gain easier their clients’ trust and make clients feel more at ease with the orthodontic procedures which need to be done.

  • Location

The location is extremely important when calculating the income for an orthodontist. The urban areas with great demographics tend to report a lower income than urban areas with lower population or rural areas. This is mainly due to the fact that the highly populated areas are also concentrating a great number of professionals performing orthodontic procedures. The competition forces orthodontists to lower their prices in order to attract more clients, therefore their services are less paid than the ones of orthodontists which holds the exclusivity in their respective areas.

Furthermore, the cost of living in highly crowded areas means that the costs associated with keeping the business working (rent for the occupied space, cost of utilities, salary for possible employees, etc.) are also considerably higher. All these are deducted from the total earnings, leaving a smaller profit for the orthodontist. However, there are some highly populated areas (like Ontario, Canada) which break the rule and report higher orthodontist salaries than the national average.

  • Education and training

Orthodontists spend more time training than their fellow dentists, therefore their salary needs to cover the extended training period as well as the high costs of their education. There are also a great variety of post-graduate training sessions which keep orthodontists updated with the new technology. Professionals attending such type of training are usually higher paid that the ones who do not continue their education, and it is easily to understand why.

Luckily, most of the orthodontic services are considered to affect teeth functionality and are covered by the insurances. This means that patients feel more encouraged to fix their dental problems and thus to pay the fees requested by orthodontists for their services.

  • Number of patients cared for

The earnings of an orthodontist are directly proportional with the number of patients cared for. The more patients know about them and try their services, the more income they generate. Regardless if they work in private offices or partnerships, the number of patients is related to the area where the business is located and to the orthodontist’s reputation.

  • Type of establishment

The orthodontists working in state hospitals or state facilities have a lower income than their peers working in private offices or private clinics. The size of establishment is also important because it may determine the number of patients which find out about and visit a certain orthodontist. The larger is the establishment, the higher are the chances for building a good reputation in a short amount of time.

Usually the final goal of any orthodontist is to open their own facility or become partner in an already established dental clinic. This is the most advantageous way of working as it brings both financial and professional results.

Orthodontist Salary – Average Orthodontist Income

In the US

In US, the median salary is rather high compared to the other two countries analyzed in this article. An US orthodontist earns between $82,000 per year and $232,000 per year, with the top orthodontists making more than $400,000 each year. According to the information provided by Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average income for this occupation is $196,000 and 5,570 orthodontists are employed in the states of the United States of America. Only 10% of the professionals working in this field earn around $84,000, while 25% of them have an income which equals $126,000.

The top paying states for this job are Tennessee, South Carolina, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. Other states with the high mean wage are Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Kansas, Virginia and Pennsylvania, all with an average orthodontist salary ranging between $236,000 and $252,000. On the opposite side, the states with the lowest orthodontist salary are Illinois, Indiana, Alabama, Los Angeles and Washington, with a median salary ranging between $130,000 and $173,000.

In Canada

The average salary for orthodontists in Canada is $106,578, with the lowest income of $38,776 and the highest salary of $287,303. Variations occur around the country. The region with the highest orthodontist salaries is Saskatchewan, with a maximum salary of $347,907. Higher salaries are also to be found in Ontario (with an average salary of $127,383), as well as in Prince Edward Island (with an average income of $117,489) and in New Brunswick (with an average salary of $110,853).

In Australia

The median wage in Australia is $63,423, with an average minimum salary of $57,132 and an average maximum salary of $69,714. These figures have been reported for the months of July-December 2013. The orthodontist salary has known a considerable drop in Australia, from an average of $74,929 in April-June 2013 to current salary. This wage drop may be associated with a decrease in population income, fact which shows how variable orthodontist revenue is when depending exclusively on the number of treated patients.


The median salary for an orthodontist in UK is £80,000, with an average salary of £61,771 reported for 2012. There has been noted a significant drop in orthodontist salaries compared to previous years, when the average wage was located around £78,000- £78,250.

The starting salary in UK is around £30,000, while the highest salaries in the business reach £150,000. The best paid orthodontists are the ones which work in their private offices, while the lowest paid professionals are the ones working as associates in other people’s private offices. The debutants have a significantly lower income than the reputable professionals. Also, the orthodontists working in the National Health Service (NHS) tend to have a lower income than the ones working in private clinics. This is mainly due to the fact that the NHS orthodontists do not have a fix wage, but their income is dependent on the number of patients they treat on a daily basis.


The orthodontist salary is competitive compared to many of the professions. However, the amount of education needed to achieve a good skill set is considerably greater than many of the jobs in the health industry, while the compensation is not one of the highest in this domain. Therefore it is a job suitable for people who really enjoy it and have a great capacity of learning.