What Is An Orthodontist?

Orthodontists bring teeth, lips, and jaws into proper alignment to achieve facial balance.

Orthodontics is the oldest of seven recognized specialty areas within dentistry. It is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The technical term for these problems is “malocclusion,” which means “bad bite.”

The specialty practice of orthodontics requires professional skill in the design, application, and control of corrective appliances, such as braces.

What is an orthodontic specialist?

An orthodontist is a trained specialist in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. To become a specialist in orthodontics requires approximately eleven years of formal education after graduation from high school.

Orthodontists spend four years at an undergraduate college, followed by a four-year graduate program at a university dental school or other institution accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association (ADA). At this point, the individual is awarded either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree enabling him or her to practice general (family) dentistry.

Typically, specialty training in orthodontics requires the completion of a postdoctoral program consisting of three more years in an advanced education orthodontic residency program in addition to the four years required to become a general (family), dentist. Through this extensive training, the orthodontist learns the skills required to manage tooth movement (orthodontics) and guide facial development (dentofacial orthopedics).

All orthodontists are dentists, but according to the American Dental Association, only about six percent of dentists complete this advanced specialty education and may call themselves orthodontists.

The initials DMD stand for Doctor of Dental Medicine. Both sets of initials indicate the degree awarded upon graduation from dental school, and all general (family) dentists and specialists have earned one of these equivalent degrees. Both degrees use the same curriculum requirements set by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation. Generally, four years of undergraduate education plus four years of dental school is required to graduate and become a general dentist. State licensing boards accept either degree as equivalent, and both degrees allow licensed individuals to practice the same scope of general dentistry.

It is this extra clinical and didactic training that distinguishes Dr. Hendrix as a Specialist in Orthodontics.

To become a specialist in orthodontics requires additional post-graduate training. After finishing college, earning a DDS degree, and becoming a general (family) dentist, Dr. Hendrix spent an additional three years in graduate-level training and was awarded a joint Master of Science degree (MS) and Certificate in Orthodontics.

What is the AAO?

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is the national organization of dental specialists who limit their practice exclusively to orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. Founded in 1900, the AAO is the oldest and largest dental specialty organization in the United States and Canada. To date, the AAO has more than 13,500 members, including more than 2,000 international members from outside North America. This membership consists of approximately ninety-four percent of all orthodontists who currently practice in the United States.

The AAO is dedicated to advancing the art and science of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, improving the health of the public by promoting quality orthodontic care, and supporting the successful practice of orthodontics. All members must meet the specialty educational requirements as defined by the Commission on Dental Education of the American Dental Association (ADA).

The American Dental Association has recognized that “specialists are necessary to protect the public, nurture the art and science of dentistry, and improve the quality of care.” Dr. Hendrix is proud to be an active member in both the American Association of Orthodontists and the American Dental Association.


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Unionville/Kennett Square

127 West Street Road, #201

Kennett Square, PA 19348

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Jennersville/West Grove

695 West Baltimore Pike

West Grove, PA 19390

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