Orthodontists follow the same initial career paths as dentists.

Orthodontics is a dental specialty recognized by the American Dental Association. Before you can become an orthodontist, you need to have a degree in either Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine. After obtaining a doctoral degree, you must complete an orthodontic residency program that’s accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation and pass the American Board of Orthodontics’ certification exams. This process starts with an undergraduate college career.

Choosing the Right College

Organizations like the American Dental Association and the American Student Dental Association do not recommend any undergraduate colleges in particular for aspiring orthodontists, nor do they state that a particular college major is required. You should verify if the U.S. Department of Education recognizes the college that you plan to attend. If a particular dental school interests you, an admissions advisor from that school may offer recommendations regarding your undergraduate education.

Dental School Prerequisites

As an undergraduate student, you can choose any major you wish, according to the ADA. As you schedule your classes, work with a pre-dental adviser to plan your college career path to ensure that you take the undergraduate courses required by the dental schools that interest you. The ADA suggests that you receive at least eight credits, or credit hours, in the following courses: biology with lab, general chemistry with lab, organic chemistry with lab, physics and English.

Prepare for the Dental Admissions Test

The classes that you take as an undergraduate student should help prepare you for the Dental Admissions Test through the Dental Admissions Testing Program. In general, students take the DAT at least a year before applying to dental school. The test is computer-based, multiple-choice and has four sections that assess your reading comprehension skills, quantitative reasoning, perceptual ability and knowledge of natural sciences, according to Towson University. When you want to schedule a testing date, you must apply to take the DAT through the ADA’s Department of Testing Services.

Applying to Dental School

When you’re ready to apply to a dental school, you can do so by applying to individual schools or by using the American Dental Education Association’s centralized application processing service, the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service. Keep in mind that some states require you to use their own dental school application service, depending on the school of interest. Towson University shares that if you file a “primary application” through an application service, it will collect information regarding your undergraduate transcripts. Schools that are interested in you as a dental student will send you a “secondary application.”