Orthodontist Schooling

orthodontist schooling in usa

Orthodontists are highly trained dental professionals which work to obtain the best smile for their patients, boost their self-esteem and enhance their oral health. From braces to retainers and from X-rays to dental records and personalized examinations, the orthodontists employ all the
possible means to fix alignment and occlusion issues. Their experience yet comes at a cost and their education spans on a longer period of time than that of their fellow dentists. If you have ever thought of making orthodontics your career, here is the most important information on orthodontist schooling, including costs, school requirements, best orthodontic programs and estimated time to complete the education process. At the end of the article you will find a list with all the accredited orthodontic programs in US, grouped by state.

Benefits of being an orthodontist

Orthodontists realign teeth in order to improve their functionality and aspect, enhance the patient’s overall look and solve existing jaw issues. The treatment is preceded by an examination, X-rays and teeth impression. The treatment is designed so as to best address the patient’s problem and can vary from braces or retainers to jaw surgery. The procedures are done in the orthodontist’s office, sometimes in collaboration with other dental specialists.

Orthodontists work prevalently in private offices and are self-employed or associates in the business. This is the most profitable way of exercising the profession and, understandably, the ideal situation for most orthodontists, regardless if they are beginners or have years of experience behind. Hospitals, clinics, emergency rooms, state facilities are also offering decently paid orthodontist jobs and are a good starting point for any professional struggling to make himself a good reputation.

In order to apply for such a job, orthodontists must be certified by the American Board of Orthodontists. The certification is obtained after a written and a clinical examination and it serves to prove one’s competencies in the field. The exam must be retaken each 10 years in order to keep the credentials actual.

The orthodontist career enjoys an increased popularity among youngsters. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of qualified orthodontists will increase by 21% until 2020, mainly because of the increasing need of professionals in the field. People are more and more aware of the importance of good looking teeth and are willing to pay the high prices required by an orthodontist in order to achieve the perfect smile.

How to become an orthodontist?

Becoming an orthodontist requires passion, commitment and money. The road is long and strenuous, but it is also extremely rewarding for those who reach the destination. The starting line is in college. In order to be eligible for a dental school, students must have great recommendations and high scores in science courses. It is advisable to choose a B.S. rather than a B.A. because most dental schools require the student to have attended a number of science courses. B.A. students can apply for a dental school only after taking the additional courses which are not included in their college curriculum.

The next step towards the orthodontist career is taking the Dental Admission Test (DAT). A good score in DAT cumulated with overall high grades in college can grant anyone a place in a reputable dental school. However, the competition is extremely high, so it is essential to have a great college history in order to impress the university staff.

Universities are looking for dedicated people, therefore showing devotion towards this career is vital. The best thing to do that is by staying around a dentist or orthodontist and observe closely the way they work and the way they treat people. This will help any outsider talk like a professional. Furthermore, will shout one’s enthusiasm better than any other word. Another way is to volunteer for different dental campaigns which will enable the future student to gain part of the necessary skills and/or knowledge for a dental profession.

The dental school usually takes four years. During this time the students will be taught everything they need to know about teeth, teeth issues and appropriate treatments. In the last two years of college, the students will work with real people in order to treat different teeth and jaw problems.

The orthodontist specialization is accessible only after the student graduates from a dental school. The orthodontist residency is available at different universities, but they can also be taken at hospitals all around the country. Some programs offer a stipend for residents, so part of the education costs and personal needs can be covered by these sums of money.

However, there is a word among dental professionals which says that orthodontist schooling never stops when you are working in the field. Therefore in order to be a good professional, a highly trained and always up to date orthodontist, it is imperative that you continue the studies even after the residency. The American Dental Association (ADA) offers a great variety of orthodontic courses which present the novelties in the field and introduce the latest discoveries in dental medicine. Related courses, such as X-ray, are also of great use for orthodontists since most of them prefer to diagnose and establish the treatment by themselves in order to develop a stronger bond with the patient.

How long is orthodontist schooling?

The orthodontic education varies in accordance to the type of training chosen, but the most common path to follow for orthodontists involves 10 years of study, divided in 4 years of undergraduate education (preferably a college with science specialization), 4 years of graduate education (a doctorate program in orthodontics from where the students receive a DDS/DMD degree) and 2 post-graduate years (residency in orthodontics, when the student works with patients in order to develop skills and appropriate experience). But, as mentioned above, the learning never stops as new techniques are discovered and new equipment is invented.

Orthodontist schooling requirements

The requirements for orthodontic schools vary from university to university. However, most of them require at least 2 letters of recommendation, a mean GPA of over 3.4 and a similar average science GPA. The students must have taken courses in biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physics and English in order to be eligible for a place in a dental school. While variations may occur in GPA scores and number of letters of recommendation required, the necessary courses are basically the ones listed above, with minor variations in the number of elective credits required.

The School of Dental Medicine at Harvard, Massachusetts enrolls 35 people for the orthodontist specialization and requires a $75 application fee, 3 letters of recommendation, a 3.7 mean GPA, a 3.7 average science GPA and the courses listed above. With an acceptance rate of only 3.50%, this is probably one of the most selective dental school in the country.

Another top dental school, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry from University of the Pacific, requires 3 letters of recommendation, a $75 application fee, a mean GPA of 3.46 and an average science GPA of 3.4. Although the school enrolls 140 students each year, the school has a 4.67% acceptance rate.

The School of Dentistry at University of Missouri – Kansas City requires 4 letters of recommendation, a mean GPA of 3.64 and an average science GPA of 3.61.

The School of Dental Medicine from Case Western Reserve University enrolls 70 students in each class and has a 2.33% rate of acceptance. They require a $45 application fee, 2 letters of recommendation, a mean GPA of 3.61 and an average science GPA of 3.56.

The College of Dentistry from New York University has one of the largest classes. They enroll 228 students for each class and have a 4.75% acceptance rate. In order to be accepted, the student needs to pay the $75 application fee, present 3 letters of recommendation and have a mean GPA of 3.53 and an average science GPA of 3.44.

Best orthodontics programs

There are over 60 universities providing orthodontic classes for students interested in the field. The first thing that comes to one’s mind is how to choose between the numerous options available and which are the universities worth taking into consideration. In this case “the best” orthodontic programs may have two meanings: the most reputable orthodontic programs available or the most economically sensible programs.

The first meaning refers to how prestigious the program and the university are. Many students dream about having access to top equipment and learning from the best prepared professionals in the field, so top universities rank first in many students’ preferences. From this point of view, the top five orthodontic programs are the School of Dentistry from the University of Michigan, School of Dentistry from University of California at Los Angeles and at San Francisco, School of Dentistry from University of North Carolina and College of Dentistry from New York University. Other reputable programs can be found at University of Florida College of Dentistry, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, Harvard University School of Dental Medicine and Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine.

However, reputable universities have more expensive and longer programs which tend to overburden future orthodontists. This is why many students choose universities which are underrated in order to benefit from lower fees and high quality training. This will ensure a smaller college debt and more chances to obtain profit in a short amount of time. Judging in this manner the best orthodontic programs are Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education Rochester, University of Louisville School of Dentistry, Marquette University School of Dentistry, University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry and University of Iowa College of Dentistry. Other economically competitive universities include Indiana University School of Dentistry, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.

For the complete list of orthodontic programs and their official websites, please see the end of the article.

How much does it cost to become an orthodontist?

The costs associated with orthodontist schooling vary from university to university. Top universities, with stricter entry conditions and requirements, are also the ones which charge more per year because of their high reputation, top teachers and last generation equipment. Less known universities have a lower fee for their programs, which makes them more accessible to students with all types of backgrounds. The average tuition fee for a dental program is $30,000, but the actual prices for a DDS/DMD degree vary between $20,000 and $50,000 per year, with higher fees for non-resident students. The fees are also different for each year, so a thorough search of the program is needed before application.

One of the highest charging universities is University of California at San Francisco School of Dentistry, ranked 3 in a top made public by findthebest.com. The School of Dentistry at UCSF charges a tuition of $42,789 for residents and a $55,034 for students who live outside California. The total expenses for one year can reach up to $81,000 (for 3rd and 4th year) for residents and $94,000 (4th year) for non-residents.

On the other hand, University of Michigan School of Dentistry, which is ranked 1st by the same site has a tuition fee which is smaller by 6.3% than the average. The $28,538 tuition is valid only for students living in Michigan, while non-residents should pay $44,532. The total expenses here reach $70,000 for residents and up to $89,000 for students outside the state.

Harvard University, the most prestigious university in the country, has only one type of fee, without making a difference between residents and non-residents. The average tuition fee is $49,875, while the total costs for one year can go up to $92,000.

How many years of college is required to be an orthodontist?

Normally, most dental schools require a Bachelor Degree for all their applicants. This means that the student must complete all four years of college and get their degree in order to apply for a place in one of the ADA (American Dental Association) accredited orthodontic programs.

The preparation for a dental school should start earlier than college, though. High-school students interested in an orthodontics career should apply for a science specialization in college in order to make the dental school application a smooth process. Students with major in sciences have an advantage over other students as they have already studied intensively some (or all) of the subjects which are compulsory for dental school admission.

For example, the School of Dentistry at University of Michigan requires previous knowledge in biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and English (especially for foreign students). The same courses are required by Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC, New York University College of Dentistry (NYU) and most other schools of dentistry.

Students who have not taken these courses or have not completed the specified number of hours will need to take additional courses in order to meet the requirements of dental schools.


Orthodontist schooling is a long (for many, a never-ending) and extremely difficult process. It is costly and extremely demanding, therefore it requires passion and determination. This is why the job is only suitable for people who take real pleasure in it. In the end, all efforts pay off when the patient leaves the dental office smiling!

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List of orthodontic schools (accredited by the ADA)


  • University of Alabama, School of Dentistry; Birmingham, Alabama; dental.uab.edu


  • A.T. Still University Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health; Mesa, Arizona; atsu.edu


  • Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC; Los Angeles, California; dentistry.usc.edu
  • Loma Linda University, School of Dentistry; Loma Linda, California; llu.edu)
  • University of California at Los Angeles School of Dentistry; Los Angeles, California; dent.ucla.edu
  • University of California at San Francisco, School of Dentistry; San Francisco, California; dentistry.ucsf.edu
  • University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni, School of Dentistry; San Francisco, California; dental.pacific.edu
  • Western University of Health Sciences, College of Dental Medicine; Pomona, California; westernu.edu


  • University of Colorado Denver; Aurora, Colorado; ucdenver.edu


  • University of Connecticut, School of Dental Medicine; Farmington, Connecticut; sdm.uchc.edu

District of Columbia

  • Howard University College of Dentistry; Washington, D.C.; dentistry.howard.edu


  • Jacksonville University School of Orthodontics; Jacksonville, Florida; https://juorthoedu.com/
  • Nova Southeastern University, College of Dental Medicine; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; dental.nova.edu
  • University of Florida, College of Dentistry; Gainesville, Florida; dental.ufl.edu.


  • Georgia Health Sciences University, College of Dental Medicine; Augusta, Georgia; georgiahealth.edu


  • University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry; Chicago, Illinois; dentistry.uic.edu


  • Indiana University, School of Dentistry; Indianapolis, Indiana; iusd.iupui.edu


  • University of Iowa, College of Dentistry; Iowa City, Iowa; dentistry.uiowa.edu


  • University of Kentucky, College of Dentistry; Lexington, Kentucky; mc.uky.edu
  • University of Louisville, School of Dentistry; Louisville, Kentucky; dental.louisville.edu


  • Louisiana State University, School of Dentistry; New Orleans, Louisiana; lsusd.lsuhsc.edu


  • University of Maryland Baltimore, College of Dental Surgery; Baltimore, Maryland; dental.umaryland.edu


  • Boston University Goldman, School of Dental Medicine; Boston, Massachusetts; dentalschool.bu.edu
  • Harvard University, School of Dental Medicine; Boston, Massachusetts; hsdm.harvard.edu
  • Tufts University, School of Dental Medicine; Boston, Massachusetts; tufts.edu


  • University of Detroit Mercy, School of Dentistry; Detroit, Michigan; dental.udmercy.edu
  • University of Michigan, School of Dentistry; Ann Arbor, Michigan; https://www.dent.umich.edu/


  • Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education; Rochester, Minnesota; https://www.mayo.edu/msgme/residencies-fellowships/
  • University of Minnesota, School of Dentistry; Minneapolis, Minnesota; dentistry.umn.edu.


  • University of Mississippi School of Dentistry; Jackson, Mississippi; dentistry.umc.edu


  • Saint Louis University Center for Advanced Dental Education; Saint Louis, Missouri; https://www.slu.edu/x31384.xml
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City, School of Dentistry; Kansas City, Missouri; dentistry.umkc.edu


  • University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry; Lincoln, Nebraska; unmc.edu


  • Roseman University of Health Sciences, College of Dental Medicine; Henderson, Nevada; https://www.roseman.edu/
  • University of Nevada Las Vegas, School of Dental Medicine; Las Vegas, Nevada; dentalschool.unlv.edu

New Jersey

  • University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey; Newark, New Jersey; dentalschool.umdnj.edu

New York

  • Bronx-Lebanon Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics Residency Program; Bronx, New York; https://bronxlebanondentistry.org/
  • Columbia University, College of Dental Medicine; New York, New York; cpmcnet.columbia.edu
  • New York University, College of Dentistry; New York, New York; nyu.edu
  • State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine; Buffalo, New York; sdm.buffalo.edu
  • Stony Brook University, School of Dental Medicine; Stony Brook, New York; dentistry.stonybrookmedicine.edu
  • University of Rochester Medical Center; Rochester, New York; https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/Dentistry/education/orthodontics.aspx

North Carolina

  • East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine; Greenville, North Carolina; ecu.edu
  • University of North Carolina, School of Dentistry; Chapel Hill, North Carolina;dentistry.unc.edu


  • Case Western Reserve University, School of Dental Medicine; Cleveland, Ohio; dental.case.edu
  • Ohio State University, College of Dentistry; Columbus, Ohio; dent.ohio-state.edu


  • University of Oklahoma, College of Dentistry; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; dentistry.ouhsc.edu


  • Oregon Health and Science University, School of Dentistry; Portland, Oregon; ohsu.edu


  • Temple University The Maurice H. Kornberg, School of Dentistry; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; temple.edu
  • Seton Hill University Center For Orthodontic; Greensburg, Pennsylvania; https://www.setonhill.edu/academics/orthodontics/in
  • University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; dental.upenn.edu
  • University of Pittsburgh, School of Dental Medicine; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; dental.pitt.edu

Puerto Rico

  • University of Puerto Rico, School of Dental Medicine; San Juan, Puerto Rico; dental.rcm.upr.edu

South Carolina

  • MUSC: James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine; Charleston, South Carolina; academicdepartments.musc.edu


  • Meharry Medical College, School of Dentistry; Nashville, Tennessee; mmc.edu
  • University of Tennessee College of Dentistry; Memphis, Tennessee; uthsc.edu
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Nashville, Tennessee; : https://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/root/vumc.php?site=de (hospital based program)


  • Texas A & M Health Science Center: Baylor College of Dentistry; Dallas, Texas; tambcd.edu
  • The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston; Houston, Texas; dentistry.uth.edu
  • University of Texas Health Science Center – San Antonio, Dental School; San Antonio, Texas; dental.uthscsa.edu


  • Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine; South Jordan, Utah; roseman.edu


  • Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Dentistry; Richmond, Virginia; dentistry.vcu.edu


  • University of Washington-Health Sciences, School of Dentistry; Seattle, Washington; dental.washington.edu

West Virginia

  • West Virginia University School of Dentistry; Morgantown, West Virginia; dentistry.hsc.wvu.edu


  • Marquette University School of Dentistry; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; marquette.edu