What Are the Abilities to Be an Orthodontist?

Orthodontists fix dental issues.
i Dick Luria/Photodisc/Getty Images

Female dentists increased by 43 percent between 2001 and 2011, according to the American Dental Association. Women are also making headway in orthodontics, which is a branch of dentistry. In 2013, the American Association of Orthodontists elected a female president -- a first in the association's 113-year history. An orthodontist’s job is to prevent or correct the irregular growth of teeth. As an orthodontist you’ll likely work with children and young adults because human bone responds best to treatment before the age of 18.

Diagnosing Problems

    Before you treat a patient, you’ll need to get to the root of the problem. You’ll do this by studying the patient’s dental history and diagnostic reports such as pictures of the patient’s face and teeth, X-rays of the bone structure and plaster impressions of the patient’s teeth. By examining the patient, you detect abnormalities in jaw development and tooth position, and the resulting facial irregularities. Next, you’ll come up with a course of action to remedy the problem. You’ll also create a cost estimate for your patient before you begin the necessary work.

Using Tools

    Some of your patients might need to have braces or retainers. Because every person’s dental structure is unique, you’ll take measurements, design and create the perfect braces or retainers. These appliances create and reduce space as necessary to allow teeth to align properly and correct improper bites. You’ll need to skillfully insert appliances and make changes to suit the patients’ comfort. You’ll also need to know how to use X-ray machines and drills, as well as mouth mirrors, probes, forceps, pliers, brushes and scalpels. When working on patients you must be able to pick the right tool and equipment to get the job done.

Physical Requirements

    You need to have finger dexterity because you’ll work inside the small, cramped space of your patients' mouths. You'll need to coordinate the movements of your fingers to assemble, insert and work with tiny objects in mouths. You also need steady arms and hands, a good near vision and the ability to discern reverse images. You'll spend a good bit of your day standing and sitting, and you'll twist and bend to get to difficult to reach areas of the mouth.

Other Skills

    Orthodontists often need to think outside the box because this is one field where one size does not fit all. When faced with a problem, you'll need to think quickly and logically, and come up with alternative solutions when required. You should also be able to pick the appropriate and economical course of treatment for your patient by carefully weighing the positives and negatives of every course. Often the patient may be undergoing treatment for other problems at the same time so you might need to coordinate your procedures with other physicians.

Administration and Customer Care

    When patients come to you with a problem, you need to understand it and communicate effectively about the treatment you recommend. A basic understanding of human psychology can also help you when you’re treating patients with issues of self-confidence about their appearance. At times, you might need to maintain financial accounts and patient records. If you’re working as a part of a health care team or managing other team members, you’ll need to direct and instruct them so they perform efficiently.

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