I have written a short step-by-step guide to becoming a craniofacial and special care orthodontist. Hope this helps if you are interested!
Step 1: Go to college for 3-4 years
While in college, you will have the freedom to study any major, as long as certain science courses are completed, and good grades are achieved. Most schools have similar requirements for their science courses, but it is important to check each schools’ criteria. Additionally, each school has a minimum requirement for shadowing hours to apply.
Step 2: Take the DAT (Dental Admissions Test)
The DAT is a 4.5-hour test that all students applying to dental school must take. It contains 6 different sections: biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, and the Perceptual Ability Test (PAT).
Step 3: Complete the dental school application and interview
Typically started in June between junior and senior year of college if you intend to go straight from college. The important thing to remember is although they have deadlines, it is ideal to complete all the applications, including the secondary questions, by the end of July, early August. By completing the applications early, you will help give yourself the best chance of receiving interviews. In order to help you submit applications early, work on finalizing your personal statement and determine your letter of recommendation writers before June, when the application opens.
Step 4: Attend a dental school for 4 years
In your time in dental school, it is important to still maintain good grades and to enrich your learning as much as you can. Take advantage of several opportunities your school may provide, join clubs that you are interested in, participate in community service, do research, attend hospital and pediatric rotations, shadow orthodontists and programs you are interested in if you can. Participate in things you are interested in and will separate you as a future applicant.
Step 5: Take the GRE or ADAT
Right now, the GRE is more widely accepted and desired from most schools. There are a few schools right now that require the ADAT (Advanced Dental Admission Test), and this may increase over the years as the ADAT becomes more common.
Step 6: Apply to orthodontic residencies and interview
Similarly to the dental school application, be prepared early and apply early. This application opens in June between 3rd and 4th year in dental school.
Step 7: Receive a DDS or a DMD
Received after completing all dental school requirements.
Step 8: Complete an orthodontic residency (2-3 years) – Certificate or Master of Science in Orthodontics
Step 9: Apply for a Fellowship in Craniofacial, Surgical, and Special Care Orthodontics
At this time, there are only four fellowship programs in the country. The idea of having an extra fellowship to study more about how to treat craniofacial patients in orthodontics is a new idea. Orthodontists have been a part of the craniofacial team for years, but these orthodontists have had to learn more about craniofacial orthodontics on their own, not through formal training.
Step 10: Apply to be a part of a team at a hospital
Most craniofacial teams are organized and run through hospitals. These teams are made up of several individuals based on the particular needs but often include oral surgeons, plastic surgeons, pediatric dentists, orthodontists, prosthodontists, psychiatrists, geneticists, speech and swallowing therapists, social workers, and other allied health care providers. It is important to recognize that this type of therapy takes several years, meticulous planning, and excellent communication of all parties involved.
Hope this helps!