Pay & Salary

How Much Do Orthodontists Make?

February 22, 2021

An orthodontist is a doctor who focuses on parts of the face including the mouth, jaw, teeth, nerves and gums. These types of dentists diagnose and treat problems like overbites and other misalignments in the teeth. If you're considering a dental profession, becoming an orthodontist can be both personally and financially fulfilling, as you would improve the appearance and function of your patients' teeth, while making a high income. In this article, we'll discuss how much orthodontists make with average salary by state, their job outlook and how you can become an orthodontist.

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How much do orthodontists make?

The average national salary for an orthodontist is $256,491 per year, making it a highly lucrative career compared to others. The typical tenure for an orthodontist is a year or less.

Average orthodontist salary by state

Here are the average salaries for orthodontists by state:

  • Alabama: $305,416 per year
  • Alaska: $241,510 per year
  • Arizona: $307,564 per year
  • Arkansas: $258,842 per year
  • California: $271,907 per year
  • Colorado: $317,233 per year
  • Connecticut: $312,000 per year
  • Delaware: $233,376 per year
  • Florida: $151,569 per year
  • Georgia: $165,673 per year
  • Hawaii: $231,190 per year
  • Idaho: $213,678 per year
  • Illinois: $328,900 per year
  • Indiana: $375,180 per year
  • Iowa: $227,782 per year
  • Kansas: $223,797 per year
  • Kentucky: $220,052 per year
  • Louisiana: $344,500 per year
  • Maine: $224,145 per year
  • Maryland: $247,777 per year
  • Massachusetts: $255,903 per year
  • Michigan: $231,162 per year
  • Minnesota: $239,686 per year
  • Mississippi: $411,580 per year
  • Missouri: $233,507 per year
  • Montana: $214,756 per year
  • Nebraska: $224,166 per year
  • Nevada: $231,302 per year
  • New Hampshire: $229,407 per year
  • New Jersey: $248,607 per year
  • New Mexico: $366,080 per year
  • New York: $256,104 per year
  • North Carolina: $276,783 per year
  • North Dakota: $229,993 per year
  • Ohio: $312,000 per year
  • Oklahoma: $221,744 per year
  • Oregon: $238,372 per year
  • Pennsylvania: $207,973 per year
  • Rhode Island: $233,592 per year
  • South Carolina: $225,708 per year
  • South Dakota: $219,945 per year
  • Tennessee: $227,549 per year
  • Texas: $250,919 per year
  • Utah: $223,205 per year
  • Vermont: $225,757 per year
  • Virginia: $278,888 per year
  • Washington: $250,274 per year
  • West Virginia: $216,329 per year
  • Wisconsin: $230,479 per year
  • Wyoming: $222,796 per year

Job outlook for orthodontists

Employment for orthodontists is expected to grow by 8.5% over the next decade through 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is faster than the average growth across professions. The work conditions of an orthodontist include managing high-stress situations, standing for long periods of time, working with small handheld tools of the trade and working in a clinical environment.

How to become an orthodontist

If you're seeking to become an orthodontist in your career journey, get prepared to follow these steps:

  1. Get an undergraduate degree.
  2. Pass the DAT.
  3. Enroll in and complete dental school.
  4. Pass the board exam.
  5. Practice as a dentist.
  6. Specialize as an orthodontist.

1. Get an undergraduate degree

To become an orthodontist you must first get an undergraduate degree. Some options for this include pre-medical fields like biology, chemistry, physical science and more. Generally speaking, anyone who wants to go to dental school should look into a bachelor of science degree in any pre-medicine field, which generally includes biological and physical sciences. Students can also expect to take math courses, like statistics, and meet general education requirements.

2. Pass the DAT

The dental admission test (DAT) is the exam you must pass after completing an undergraduate bachelor of science program applicable to dentistry. The DAT is designed to test the knowledge you should have gained in undergraduate coursework. The test is broken up into sections that test subjects like biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, reading and reasoning. These are each scored from 1 to 30. Most dental schools look at your academic average, a figure derived from drawing the mean of all scores.

3. Enroll in and complete dental school

Once you have your bachelor's degree, you must enroll in dental school and complete it. Like many post-graduate medical programs, going to dental school will take you about four years. In some cases, it may be possible to work and attend a dental program, while other students may need to consider ways that they can focus solely on school without splitting their attention between school and work.

4. Pass the board exam

After completing dental school you will be tested on the skills you learned during your education before you can become a dentist. You will need to pass an exam issued by the National Board Dental Examination. The test takes place in two parts. The first is a 400-question written exam, and the next part is a two-day practical exam. Scores are received as pass or fail only. Once passed, you can apply for licensure within your state and begin practicing as a dentist.

5. Practice as a dentist

If your goal is to specialize in orthodontics, you should get some experience in general dentistry first. This is especially true for people who are unsure if they want to pursue a general dentistry practice or specialize. There's no set amount of time that you need to practice as a dentist to become an orthodontist, you just need to be able to get accepted into a residency or fellowship spot with limited space. It can be very competitive, so it's good to have experience to bolster your application.

6. Specialize as an orthodontist

After you have become a dentist, you can further specialize to become an orthodontist through residency and fellowship. A residency usually occurs right after you exit dental school. A fellowship can be applied for at any point in your career. Fellowships and residencies have limited space and will look for the best candidates, so striving for excellence in education is important.

If you complete a residency in orthodontics, you can still decide to do a fellowship if you want to specialize further to prepare for your license in orthodontics. Obtaining a license to practice as an orthodontist will require you to pass a separate board exam that tests your specialized knowledge. The entire process of residence and fellowship could add roughly an additional two to five years depending on how you decide to proceed.


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