Mythbusters: Ortho Edition

Written by: Jack Orzepowski

Jack is a D2 and a member of MU ASDA. Continue reading below to find out common myths about orthodontics!

As a dental student, exposure to many of the different specialties can be slim to none. Additionally, there are rumors spread about specialties that may or may not be true. This is why we at Marquette wanted to bring you a series of blogs to “MythBust” these various claims. Our first specialty focus is Orthodontics, so here are five of the topics we want to clear up. 

1.  Invisalign will not put orthodontists out of business

This is probably the biggest concern in the field of orthodontics right know. Many general dentists are able to implement Invisalign into their treatments, taking potential patients out of the orthodontist’s pool. In fact, with SmileDirectClub, a company that collaborates with dental professionals, patients are able to take at home impressions, allowing the company to create an invisible retainer (a lot like Invisalign) for the patient without a direct appointment. Although this is appealing and can be useful to for a small percentage of patients needing minor work done, patients who have severe misalignment or malocclusion are not good candidates for this technology. In the word’s of the AAO’s (American Association of Orthodontists) general counsel Kevin Dillard, this technology “devalues ongoing follow up treatment” and can lead to a propagation of problems down the line including “bite problems, enamel wear, and even tooth loss.” Not having an orthodontist directly involved during this process is a risk a lot of people are willing to take, given the affordability of Invisalign. However, the damage it can cause needs to be corrected by an orthodontist, and can cost the patient more time and money in the long run.


TLDR: Invisalign can be successful for the right candidate with only minor flaws in dentition, but in many cases, collaboration and follow up with an orthodontist is the best bet for optimal outcomes.


2.  To get in an orthodontic residency, you will probably have to do research

Obviously grades are important, but being well rounded is just as crucial to separating yourself apart from the rest of the pack. Some people enjoy research, others do not. Whichever group you fall into, we can all agree it is incredibly important to the field of dentistry, and that is why residencies want to see that you participated in research in some way during your four years in dental school. It is a great way to not only boost your resume, but make yourself a more well rounded professional aware of the field you will be a part of for the rest of your life. However, get involved in research you are interested in. You will be more productive and successful at something you enjoy doing. And do not think it absolutely has to be related to orthodontics. As dental students, it is our job to soak up as much knowledge as possible during these four years. Having an understanding of other aspects of dentistry can help in your career as an orthodontist.


3.  As a practitioner, you don’t only see children

Adults want straight teeth too, especially in this day and age. We are in an era where aesthetics is everything, and it was not always like that. Having braces as a kid today is almost a given. The same thing cannot be said for 30+ years ago. This has left a population of untreated patients wanting a straighter smile. The advances in orthodontics make this a lot easier too – patient treatments do not take as long as they once did, so adults are more willing to undergo treatment. Do not get me wrong, working with children can be an amazing experience, but having a balance of adults and children is a special perk of the orthodontic specialty


4.  Do not apply to other specialties if you want an orthodontic residency

This one is kind of a no brainer, but there is always that one guy that will apply to a different specialty as a “back up” to ortho. DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE. Do not think you are fooling anyone, because this is information that the residency programs will know. It is essentially saying that you are completely undecided on what you truly want to do, and residencies want candidates that are committed to their particular specialty. If you are undecided, don’t be afraid to apply after having a couple years of clinical experience to make sure you are making the right decision. Even if you truly would be happy in multiple specialties, maybe consider general dentistry, because this allows you to pick and choose a little from any specialty you are comfortable with.


5.  Residencies do not look at National Board Dental Exam (NBDE) scores

As of very recently, NBDE became a pass/fail examination, which is a relief to many dental students taking boards because there is less pressure to do well. Before, it was almost a requirement to be in the top 90-95th percentile on the exam to present to ortho residencies. Now, students are required to take the GRE exam to differentiate themselves among other students. However, there is another exam they are trying to implement called the ADAT (Advanced Dental Admissions Test). This test is a better assessment in terms of dental science knowledge than the GRE and is accepted by some residency programs but not required yet. D3’s and D4’s should not have to worry about this, but D1’s and D2’s should be on the look -ut for this and plan early in case this exam is required by a residency program you want to apply to.

I hope the topics discussed helped in any way, whether it answered a direct question you may have had or got you thinking a little bit more about the ortho specialty. Thanks for reading and look out for our next edition of specialty MythBusters.