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Orthodontist vs Dentist?

Discussion in 'Dental' started by Cups, 11.29.11.


  1. Thanks to Crack the NBDE
  1. Cups

    Cups

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    I am a 19 year old college student wrapping up my first semester. I went to community college, not really too informed and pretty much left to fend for myself on this stuff. After a lot of researching and experiences I've learned a lot about college but am still not 100% there. I am seriously considering dentistry as a career and I know these questions can probably be answered from other sources but I value what most of you on this website say and I really want to hear it from you too. I was deferred from my interest in dentistry when someone recommended optometry. The info I saw on the BLS website and some other government career site seemed too good to be true, well it was. Reading a lot of threads in the optometry section has brought things to my attention that the BLS didn't. I am weary to trust most sources now and am starting to favor dentistry more. Actually, I am favoring orthodontics.

    A little about me I have been to the dentist throughout my life and had braces, still go back to the ortho for my Invisalign. I have seen these professions but want a deeper perspective. I'm trying to make the choice mainly by what my daily life will be like once I'm in the profession. General dentistry sounds a little more "down and dirty" then I would like. I feel like ortho is less down and dirty and from what I see at the orthodontist, the assistants do a lot of the work, especially that "down and dirty" work (sorry I can't think of some other ways to describe it.) I didn't want to be a nurse, NP or MD because I don't like blood, needles... basically any kind of incision type thing. I do not want to perform surgery. Do orthodontists perform surgery? If so how often? If not, will you have to do it at least in a residency or something?

    From what I see it is "normal" hours, no late night shifts or anything. Also, on average how many days a week do ortho's work? I feel like it's not a 5-day a week job. Is there some dark side I am not seeing?

    School, is it very competitive to get in? I assume yes but is it to the point where it's nearly impossible, or just very hard? I am planning on graduating from UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago) from the honors college and maintaining my 4.0 GPA. And I haven't planned out dental school yet but I will obviously try my best. I would think that gives me a good shot at getting in but you tell me, are they looking for more?

    Opportunities, is there an oversupply? Or is it mostly an oversupply in cities? Fancy cars and houses are not important to me (I know everyone feels that will change, and yes I will want NICE things but not super luxurious) but what I do want in my adult life is vacations. I feel like that's harder when you own your own practice, am I wrong? What are the advantages/disadvantages to working for an orthodontist as opposed to owning a practice

    Insurance, I see a lot of worries about insurance in health care industries, but I feel like dentists are less affected, am I wrong? Also the new healthcare plans and such, are there any scares like that in dentistry?

    I know someone will probably recommend shadowing but I don't know anything about it. Is that something I talk to the receptionist about or is it more polite to ask my ortho directly when I see him? I am not even out of my first semester of college, is shadowing appropriate right now or is that for more serious students already partially devoted to the profession?

    Sorry for such a tall order but any comments would be so appreciated. Thanks for reading
  2. Hope4

    Hope4

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    You will need to go through a lot of things that you said you don't like during dental school (blood, needles, incision, surgery) before you became dentist and that's not optional.

    Ortho programs are usually 2-3 year programs after you finish your DDS/DMD. Most orthodontists don't perform any sort of surgery.
  3. Cups

    Cups

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    So I'll need to do that in dental school, but not in the ortho program? In dental school you do surgery, incision etc. on live people? Or cadavers or something like that?
  4. flapaTron

    flapaTron § herpen the derp §

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    yes you do dissection and disassemble cadavers. but they are dead so they don't mind.

    yes you do dental surgery on patients. there is blood involved (via injections sites, extraction sites, exposed pulp chambers, periodontal disease and surgery to treat it, and the occsional abscess you get to I&D [Incision and drainage]).
  5. yappy

    yappy

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    Blood Rocks! Learn to love it - take a bio class and learn what it is and it will no longer freak you out. I remember the first time I pulled up to a horrific car wreck, put my head in the car, and smelled the fresh smell of iron. Almost clean smelling...
  6. AmpedUp

    AmpedUp The Legend Still Lives

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    personally, i wouldn't put all my chips on orthodontics because of the simple fact that it isn't guaranteed after 4 years of dental school. honestly, if you can't get yourself to like general dentistry (e.g. tolerating blood & surgery), then it wouldn't be worth your time to further explore this career avenue...but i'd also consider other input members have provided in this thread as well. try shadowing a general dentist to see if you'd be able to tolerate it...maybe enough observation might convince you otherwise :)
  7. NoPresident

    NoPresident

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    ^ Well, that sounded kind of creepy. ^

    I generally agree with the other posters though regarding the importance of shadowing. It's never too early to learn about potential careers! The easiest thing would be to simply ask your family dentist and orthodontist. If he/she agrees, show up well-dressed or in scrubs and ask a lot of questions. Do this for a while and then try and have an honest internal conversation to determine if you could see yourself doing this every day for the next 35 years.

    Also, believe it or not, several of my classmates (as a D2) are pretty turned off by blood/surgery; the majority of that group are planning to specialize in ortho or they want to run a cosmetically focused dental practice to limit the amount of "down and dirty dentistry", as you put it.

    And yes, ortho is competitive. Conventional wisdom dictates that you stay in the top 10% of your class whilst compiling a CV with research, ECs, strong LORs etc. This is no easy feat but a motivated, intelligent student will make it happen. The bottom line is you need to know ortho is what you want to do and you can't begin to make that decision until you've shadowed and spoken with several dental professionals.

    Oh, and if you decide to pursue orthodontics, get into the cheapest dental school possible and follow the same philosophy when choosing your residency. Good luck!
  8. DrJeff

    DrJeff Senior Member Moderator

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    An orthodontist is trained as a general dentist first and then after graduating dental school then if accepted receives specialty training in that field (same goes for all other dental specialties too). Once you finish specialty training, if you choose to practice as that type of specialist and advertise yourself as such, you're limited to just doing that specialty type of dentistry. For example, if upon completing an orthodontic residency, you advertise your self as say "Dr. Straightteeth, Practice limited to Orthodontics", technically you're just supposed to do only those aspects of dentistry specific to orthodontics, so you're not supposed to place fillings, perform root canals, extract teeth, etc. Whereas if your a general dentist, you can do what ever aspect of dentistry you want, BUT are supposed to be able to do them upto the level of expertise that a specialist in that field performs them at. For example, if you're a general dentist who does some orthodontics and lets say a case goes terribly wrong and you get sued over it (a rarity for sure), your work will be held accountable to the work that a board certified orthodontist could have done for that case.

    But yes, a dental specialist is a dentist 1st, and receives additional training to specialize
  9. Cups

    Cups

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    I know. But thanks for the effort
  10. Cups

    Cups

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    So, the "cosmetically focused" ones would still be general dentists but they advertise for and focus on the cosmetic procedures? Or is that another branch to specialize in after dental school? What are some common cosmetic procedures besides whitening and veneers?
  11. DrJeff

    DrJeff Senior Member Moderator

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    Frankly, I'm not sure you do. As someone who is married to an orthodontist, I can tell you that the stories of the "down and dirty stuff" (as you put it) that my wife tells me, courtesy of a patient pool that consists of a large portion of adolescents, many of whom have at best poor hygiene on a daily basis, very often trumps my stories of blood and puss that I encounter in my office regularly. The smell that can quickly develop when an ortho band comes unbonded, kids with palatal expanders that have literally had seeds that became trapped under/around the expander had had actual sprouts form from them, and then when an impacted canine needs to be surgically exposed and a bracket placed to help faciltate the movement of that tooth into occlussion, well some orthodontists will have the oral surgeon place the bracket during the exposure surgery, but since many orthodontists are uber anal retentive, they'll be at the oral surgeons office to plce the bracket themselves during the exposure.
  12. dort-ort

    dort-ort Dort-Ort

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    Give me a break -- how funny.:laugh: If I got a dime for every green faced newbie dental wanna be that wanted to be an orthodontist I'd be half of bill gates by now. Relax and get in D-school first.
  13. Veloce

    Veloce

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    First day of dental school is pretty much always cadaver lab.

    Lots of down and dirty and guts.
  14. jay47

    jay47 Think Positively!

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    You'll have to go through dental school to get to be an orthodontist, which means lots more blood and cutting cadavers and... gasp!... live people! lol

    You seem like you are doing a fine job researching these careers and are academically talented. Ortho is definitely NOT easy to get into. You typically have to be in the top ten in your dental school to get in and get a good board score (moot point for you as they turn p/f this year). Like someone else said, don't do it unless you think you like general dentistry too- because you'll need to do lots of that to get into ortho school. Be prepared for a long hard grueling 6 years though. Dental school is not easy to get into, and ortho is even harder [getting into it that is]. GL.
  15. OceanDMD

    OceanDMD Rather be fishing

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    Yeah Dr. Jeff, someone with your lack of experience should give a little better effort

    :rolleyes:
  16. fightfightfight

    fightfightfight

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    I think that this fact will make it much harder to get into an ortho program. I know people at my school (which historically has a high rate of students pursuing specialty) just sequester themselves for a few months to study for NDBE I to get 90+ and that's all they need to get into ortho. Now that it will be pass fail you are going to need to do as many extracurriculars as you can to set yourself apart. Research, clubs, cabinet/leadership positions, publish papers, win awards, community service, mission trips, remain in the top 10% of your class, etc. Just be prepared to work really really hard.
  17. yappy

    yappy

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    Maybe they will offer another exam for those who wish to do ortho?


  18. Doc Smile

    Doc Smile senior member

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    "Um yeas SDN?"

    "Oh great I see where this is going"

    "Weeeeeeelllllllll, I dont want to be a dentist, per say, but I want to have an awesome job that involves no work and has great pay -like ortho!-, can you do that for me? OH! Before I forget, I hate teeth, peoples mouth, blood, spit, saliva (are they the same thing?), breathing, bad breath, gums, gingiva, the sound a drill makes, injections, scalpels, pliers, perio probes, elevators, luxating, amalgam, and the smell of composite. You don't do that in dental school do you?"

    "No! That would be proposterous! Actually, no one applies to ortho! Just sign this list and you can skip dental school and we will PAY YOU to become an orthodontist!"

    [YOUTUBE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAi2xqpQgNM[/YOUTUBE]
  19. ortho lurker

    ortho lurker

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    gre
  20. fightfightfight

    fightfightfight

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    I actually feel that this will happen. Specialty programs will create their own entrance exams that they will require their applicants to take. Maybe numerous programs will get together to make a test that will be valid among those programs.



    Oh yea I forgot that they have to take that too. I guess scoring high on the GRE would help.
  21. Cups

    Cups

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    Not what I meant at all. I am exploring career options and am obviously interested in dentistry but find orthodontics more desirable. Just wanted an idea of the amount/types of surgery involved in the different professions. I knew ortho school was competitive but needed a good idea of how competitive. As a few people said you need to be top 10 in dental school which is the info I needed. Nothing wrong with asking some questions about a career before you dedicate your life to it, think about that the next time you want to make a rude post. If seeing my thread was really such a disturbance to you, I'm glad these are your biggest problems in life.

  22. aloe11

    aloe11

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    What are the opportunities for dental surgeons while being online?
  23. DunStopBelievin

    DunStopBelievin

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    might be unrelated, but looking at the median income (from wall street journal), general dentists makes more than orthodontists??
  24. Mapwizard

    Mapwizard

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    Interesting... my understanding was that orthodontists tended to do better on average than GP's

  25. Firm

    Firm Member

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    General dentists can and will often make more than Orthodontists, especially in larger markets. An orthodontist needs about 3 new patients for every new patient a general dentist needs. They also have to replenish their patients every 2 years. A general dentist can have the same patient for 10-30 years. A general dentist can also pull a broader age ranch of patients with greater needs and their price points are much less, which promotes acceptance of treatment. In smaller markets with less competition it is different.
  26. eliwoohoo

    eliwoohoo

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    As someone who is interested in getting into an ortho residency within the next year, I can tell you that the field is definitely going through some large and recent changes.

    Firstly, because the boards will change to pass fail by next month, I'd say your rank almost 90% determines whether a residency program will even look at your application. Thus, you will probably want to remain in the top 5% of your class. Once you have accomplished this, you will still want to bolster your application with ECs, volunteer work, research, and whatever you can to separate yourself from the other top 5%'ers. Your GRE scores will probably be the secondary filter.

    Additionally, somebody mentioned that ortho salaries are listed as lower than GPs. There is truth to this, as well as misconception. Many orthodontists do not practice full time, and those salaries do not reflect wages/hour. However, it is true that orthodontistry is generally experiencing a decline in demand. This is due to the current downward trend of the economy as well as the flooding of the market with excess new graduate orthodontists. This specialty is somewhat unique in that it's lesser physical burdens tend to produce practitioners that continue to work well past the average retirement age.

    Together, these factors do indeed add to the fact that in recent times, orthodontists have not been making as much money as other specialties or even general dentists in certain cases.

    However, you also must look at the career over time: general dentists starting salaries are generally lower than specialists, except in the most rural areas in high need of dentists. Also, the current thinking is that as the economy rebounds, the specialist salaries should follow. Thus, the career as a whole must really be tailored to your wants, needs, and abilities.

    Yes, ortho (or dentistry in general) is nice that it will give you flexibility to pursue hobbies and personal goals. HOWEVER, the "dark side" is that you must go through hell and back to make it there. Imagine: you need to do well in college (keep your high GPA for 3.5 more years), score well on DATs, compete with 100 other talented geniuses in dental school for 4 years, somehow match an ortho residency, get into 3 years of grueling residency, then graduate and live a life as a poor student for a few years trying to pay back your exhorbitant 200K+ student loans accruing 8% interest/year... Will it be worth it to you? I can tell you now, if you want to stay in the top 5% of your dental class, you will be studying harder than you ever knew possible every day, night, and weekend for at least 2 years while doing research and volunteering on all your vacations.

    If you are really interested in the career, you need to experience it firsthand through shadowing experience (as you already mentioned). I had 150 hours of shadowing my ortho by the time I graduated college. You will quickly learn whether you can or can not enjoy the career for the rest of your life and whether the sacrifice is worth the reward to you.

    Good luck! PM me if you want to know any further details. :luck:
  27. Cups

    Cups

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    @eliwoohoo

    thank you very much for your detailed reply and bringing these points up

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