||Tell me about your job. Is what you do different in any way from what others in your occupation do?|
Orthodontists treat tooth alignment problems, bite problems, and facial appearance problems in children and adults. This is done by means of various appliances which may be removable or may be cemented to the teeth, such as train tracks or full braces. The exact techniques used will vary from orthodontist to orthodontist.
I run my own orthodontic practice in a large city. I practice general orthodontics and perform some oral surgery where necessary. My patients include kids, teens, and adults from all walks of life.
||Can you tell me about your background and how you got into this field?|
My grandfather, mother, and two uncles were dentists. I suppose I could have almost inherited my interest in this field! My mother used to dabble in orthodontics. I watched her make orthodontic appliances and treat patients since I was young child. I think I got interested that way.
I started working in my mothers office at age eight. I would help her mix fillings, answer phones, and book appointments. I slowly learned to do all the things that dental assistants do. One summer, she had me fill in for a dental assistant that was on maternity leave.
I began specializing in dentistry after one year of university. I went to dental school in Toronto and graduate school in Chicago.
||What personal characteristics are required for someone to be successful in your job?|
You must have patience to deal with many different types of people of all ages. Empathy is important because orthodontics causes a certain amount of pain. You must be aware of this and try to minimize your patients discomfort. This is why a gentle and caring personality is also important. You must remember that this is a branch of dentistry which is a healing aid.
Orthodontics is very competitive, so you must be very strong academically to get into it. This job also requires dextrous hands and an artistic eye for the various treatments.
||How much job security is there for people in your field?|
Since most orthodontists are self-employed, they can choose their hours and make their own business decisions. You can practice until old age, as long as your eyesight is still good.
There is a lot of competition, especially in the larger cities. Consequently, it is increasingly difficult for a new graduate to start his or her own practice. Part-time associateships are available, but full-time positions are not easy to find.
||What other jobs could you do with the skills you have gained in this field?|
Dentists and orthodontists have very job-specific training. Unless one has experience elsewhere prior to dentistry, there is not much else one can do.
The precise handiwork required for orthodontics would be useful in wire sculpture or model shipbuilding. As well, an orthodontists artistic eye would be useful in photography.
||What do you think the future holds for people in your occupation?|
Orthodontists are treating more adults. This has driven developments in ceramic braces and a new type of treatment that is almost invisible. In my view, the almost invisible treatment produces inferior results to regular braces and is far too expensive, but its still encouraging more adults to consider orthodontic treatment.
Computers have changed the way we store and access information around the office. Patient records are now being taken and stored digitally.
Also, more and more treatment is being done by auxiliary personnel. In some provinces, hygienists and assistants are very restricted in terms of what procedures they are allowed to perform on a patient. Many provinces are changing these laws to allow hygienists and assistants to expand their roles in orthodontic offices.
||What are the biggest challenges in your job? |
This is a very social job, which I like, but some people can be very difficult to manage. Some patients are hard to keep interested and cooperative in their treatment, so they take forever to improve. For example, if patients dont wear their dental appliances away from the office, their treatment will not be as effective.
Also, dental school does not teach you everything about running a practice. They dont warn you about problems dealing with staff, or how to cope with all the administrative business details.
||Are there many opportunities in your field? What should people do to get started?|
The larger cities and their suburbs are fairly saturated with orthodontists. However, there are many smaller, outlying cities and towns where there are no orthodontists. These might be good places to start practicing. The easiest way for a new graduate to start is to become an associate with an older practitioner who plans to sell his or her practice or retire soon.