Skip to content

How do I find a real orthodontist?

Find a real AAO orthodontist through the Find an Orthodontist service. You can send an e-mail or place a call through the service to make an appointment.

How do I know my orthodontist is an AAO orthodontist?

Check the Find an Orthodontist service. If you find your orthodontist there, it means he or she is an AAO orthodontist.

What if my dentist says he/she can provide orthodontic

Consider seeking a second opinion with an AAO orthodontist, who is a specialist in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of orthodontic problems. While there is some instruction regarding orthodontics in dental school, it is minimal. It is in the post-dental school two-to-three year accredited orthodontic residency program that orthodontists receive intense instruction to learn proper, safe tooth movement (orthodontics) and the guidance of dental, jaw and facial development (dentofacial orthopedics). These extra years of school make the orthodontist the specialist in moving teeth and aligning jaws. This is the focus of their services to patients.

Is my dentist an orthodontist?

Your dentist may offer orthodontic treatment, but it does not mean that he or she is an orthodontist. Dentists do not have the same level of education and experience in orthodontic treatment as orthodontists have. If you have any doubt, ask if your dentist has graduated from an accredited orthodontic residency program. About 6 percent of those who graduate from dental school go on to become orthodontists by graduating from an accredited orthodontic residency program. Orthodontists are the dental profession’s specialists in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. 

If your dentist focuses his/her practice on providing only orthodontic treatment (prevention, diagnosis and treatment of facial and dental irregularities), and is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists, then he/she is an orthodontist. If your dentist provides general dental services such as cleanings, fillings, and overall management to maintain or restore oral health, then he/she is probably not an orthodontist. Use Find an Orthodontist to locate AAO orthodontists. The AAO only admits educationally qualified orthodontists as members.

Does extra education really make a difference in how an orthodontic problem is treated, or in the outcome?

Yes, orthodontists’ extra and intensive education makes a big difference. As specialists through education and clinical experience, orthodontists are experts in the diagnosis of orthodontic problems, forms of treatment, the timing of treatment, treatment planning, supervision of treatment, as well as working with patients for long-term stability of their treatment results. The orthodontist’s expertise guides him/her in recommending the type of treatment best suited to correct any specific patients’ orthodontic problem. Orthodontists are not limited to a single kind of orthodontic “appliance.” Orthodontists are uniquely qualified specialists and have the skills and experience to give you a healthy and beautiful smile.

Why choose an AAO orthodontist?

Choosing an AAO orthodontist is your assurance that the doctor truly is an orthodontist because the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) only admits orthodontists for membership.

What is an AAO orthodontist?

An AAO orthodontist is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). The AAO only admits orthodontists for membership – those who have completed a specialty training program in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics after graduating from dental school.

What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a specialist in orthodontic treatment (proper alignment of teeth and jaws) and dentofacial orthopedics (guidance of facial, jaw and facial development). Only those who graduate from dental school, usually a four-year program, and who are accepted for and successfully complete advanced study in orthodontics at accredited two-to-three year orthodontic residency program may call themselves “orthodontists.” Orthodontists focus their services to patients on providing orthodontic treatment to children, teenagers and adults. Orthodontists create healthy, beautiful smiles for patients of all ages.

What do the initials mean after an orthodontist’s name?

DDS stands for “Doctor of Dental Surgery.”  DMD stands for “Doctor of Dental Medicine.” These are the degrees awarded by U.S. and Canadian dental schools. The American Dental Association considers them to be equivalent degrees. There is not a set of initials that mean that someone has graduated from an orthodontic program, so orthodontists may or may not have additional initials after their DDS or DMD. 

Some accredited orthodontic programs confer a certificate upon graduation. Others confer a degree. There are many variations of post-graduate degrees. Common ones include MS, MSc, and MSD. When you select a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) for orthodontic treatment, you can be assured that the doctor truly is an orthodontist. That’s because the AAO only admits orthodontists as members.

Are there board-certified orthodontists?

Yes. These orthodontists have completed the American Board of Orthodontics Specialty Certification exams. Board-certified orthodontists are known as Diplomates of the American Board of Orthodontics. The American Board of Orthodontics is the only orthodontic specialty certifying board that is recognized by the American Dental Association. Board certification is voluntary for orthodontists In Canada, specialists are certified by the Royal College of Dentists of Canada (RCDC). All specialists in Canada must meet the standards set by the RCDC in order to call themselves specialists.