Besides their status with fame, Tom Cruise, Emma Watson, and Faith Hill have one commonality: all three of them have braces. And that's no surprise, when with their high-profile publicity, they want to have the straightest teeth and most beautiful smiles possible. Orthodontists, who fit patients for braces, make these changes possible for their clients. Some professionals take before and after pictures of clients, documenting the amazing changes in their pearly whites for satisfied patients. If you have been less than happy with your smile, consider asking an orthodontist if they can suggest braces to help you.

According to U.S. News and World Report, orthodontists hold the top spot for the best jobs in the world. The magazine ranked jobs on various qualities, including earnings, employment rate, overall job growth and prospects, job stressors, and work-life balance. They also rank as #5 in the top-paying jobs. Orthodontists have the opportunity to work with their clients over the course of time, developing relationships with them and watching their growth and progress, which can bring a lot of satisfaction.

What is an orthodontist?

Orthodontists correct teeth alignment and check and treat dental problems. They create appliances, including braces, aligners, retainers, and headgear, to straighten teeth.

Reasons to see an orthodontist

A dentist refers children and teens to an orthodontist, citing a bad or crooked bite, also called a malocclusion. The orthodontist then works to straighten your teeth and correct your bite, adjusting how your jaw fits together. Once the dentist fits you for braces, they might also prescribe headgear, to further move your teeth, or retainers as part of your follow-up care.

Other signs that you should see an orthodontist include:

  • You or your child has been teased about his or her teeth, smile, or bite.
  • You or your child's teeth are crowded into his or her mouth, leaving little room for proper cleaning.
  • You or your child has an overbite or underbite.

What does an orthodontist do?

An orthodontist examines the patient's mouth, fitting him or her for either fixed or removable appliances to adjust the position of their teeth. These devices work through gentle pressure to move the teeth.

Traditional braces include wire or plastic brackets, bands, and a wire that arches across the teeth. Your orthodontist will fix the brackets to the teeth and then attach the wires, which can be adjusted to align the teeth slowly. Patients see the orthodontist every 30 to 45 days on average for adjustments for one to three years. Braces today show less metal and work more quickly than in past years. Children might prefer choosing options with bright band colors. After removal, most patients need to wear a retainer so that the teeth do not drift back to their former position.

Here's an overview of additional orthodontic treatment options:

  • Self-litigating braces: These use a slide device to move the teeth instead of the elastic bands, which can speed up treatment time and eliminate the intrusive appearance of bands and brackets. However, these types of braces usually cost more than their traditional counterparts.
  • Invisible braces: These are clear and also help accelerate the desired results, which means that the patient does not need to wear them for as long. The patient uses aligner trays, which they take out when brushing, flossing, and eating.

Orthodontist certification

An orthodontist must graduate from an accredited school, pass written and practical tests, and obtain a license according to the requirements of their home state. They must also have already completed a bachelor's degree, preferably in a related field, such as science. To get into dental school, candidates must take the Dental Admission Test, and competition to enter the best schools can be quite tough. In addition to studying anatomy, periodontics, radiology, and local anesthesia, a dental school student will go through hands-on clinical experience. Orthodontists then need to complete two to four years of residency.

If you want to check the qualifications of an orthodontist, you can do so at the website for the American Board of Orthodontics.

Referral and research

To see an orthodontist, you will likely need a referral from your primary care physician or family dentist. However, a referral does not necessarily mean that you should see that particular orthodontist. You should exercise due diligence and research the specialist on your own. You can look online for further information on how to choose an orthodontist.

Questions to ask an orthodontist at your first meeting

While the average age for the first orthodontist visits falls somewhere between 9 and 14, an orthodontist might also treat patients in their 60s and 70s. No matter your age, you should ask your orthodontist a few important questions at your first visit.

  • How long will I need to wear my braces?
  • Am I a good candidate for self-litigating or invisible braces?
  • What kind of payment plans do you have?
  • What kinds of foods should I avoid while wearing braces?
  • What results do you anticipate once the braces are removed? How long will I need to wear a retainer?

Looking for an orthodontist can be confusing, as you need to consider various factors, including prices, ratings, and the right length of time to wear the appliances. You can search online for further information about orthodontists in your area and check for reviews, ratings, and possible malpractice claims. After you have seen an orthodontist, write a review so that other patients will know about your experience, whether positive or negative.