To become an orthodontist, one must first complete four years of undergraduate education and receive a bachelor's degree. The degree can be in any subject, but it is recommended that those interested in going on to dental school take some science and biology courses; a major in a science- or biology-related field can only help boost dental school applications.
After four years of undergraduate school, prospective orthodontists must study for four more years at an accredited dental school. Accredited dental schools can be found all over the U.S. and Canada. See the end of this page for links to five highly reputable schools. The topics covered in dental school courses include general ones such as anatomy, microbiology, and physiology. There are also required courses that cover orthodontics more specifically: occlusion, dental materials, and pediatric dentistry are some examples of course focuses.
Dental students spend the first two years taking courses in traditional classrooms, but then they must gain some practical experience in the field in clinics during their last two years of dental school.
Once students have completed their four years of dental school, they must do a few more things before they can receive a dental license. Orthodontists must be licensed in their state to practice. Therefore, they must pass state clinical tests. Also, they must successfully pass the written National Board Dental Examinations. After passing these requirements, orthodontists should seek out certification from the American Board of Orthodontics by passing written and clinical exams.
Education aside, orthodontists must have a good bedside manner, which means they will be friendly and approachable when dealing with patients. They must have exceptional hand-eye coordination and a steady hand, as they are often working with tools in small areas of the mouth. They also need to be able to work at a reasonable pace and stick to a schedule, as they will regularly have multiple patients throughout the day with scheduled appointment times.