April 20, 2020

Being an orthodontist is great!

I have worked as an orthodontist since 1984 and I have decided to write a post on the “great things about orthodontics”.  I know that many of these apply to dentistry in general. However,  I only know about orthodontics.


Every patient is different.  They all bring their individual challenges. These may be associated with their malocclusion, their health and their socio-economic status. They all need to be addressed as part of our planning. This means that every day is different and challenging.

Treatment rarely goes completely to plan. Nearly every patient is a puzzle (at least to me!).

There is nothing like completing treatment and fully appreciating the changes you have helped your patients achieve. Even if the changes are minor, they all seem to matter.

Brackets in place

It is great to try new techniques and developments that are designed to improve treatment and make things easier for the operator and patient.  Like all orthodontists, I have done this many times. However, it is not so clever to tell the patient that this new technique is going to make their treatment faster, correct airway problems and generally be great in a world crisis!


Being a member of the team that turns a first-year undergraduate into a dentist in five years is one of the most satisfying things we can do.

Similarly, helping a first-year postgraduate (resident) to become a specialist in three years is a privilege.


Planning an orthodontic clinical trial is great fun. Obtaining funding for the trial is a great feeling. This is then followed by trepidation that we actually have to do the study.

Completing the trial with a group of collaborators in fantastic. Writing the paper and getting it published is an incredible feeling. Discussing the findings with others, mainly the fringe is challenging!

Conferences and blogs

Orthodontic conferences are great opportunities for meeting highly motivated people from all over the World. The learning opportunities are tremendous. However, presenting is very scary!

Writing an orthodontic blog takes some time, but it is very satisfying to hear that this helps people understand the literature in this busy time.

Adapting to new teaching technologies is challenging and satisfying. Giving seminars from your study at home is harder than face to face. But this is the future.

Being an orthodontist is great. Does anyone want to add other things in the comments?


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Have your say!

  1. “As someone who still loves orthodontics after fifty years practice, I feel privileged to have spent my working life helping people feel good about their dental and facial appearance and function. I also feel privileged to have benefited from the knowledge and research of great teachers and clinicians, including you, Dr O’Brien. This could also not have happened without the vision of use of orthodontic auxiliaries, ‘on-site’ technicians and early adoption of digital imaging, I think back to the countless hours in the mid to late 1990’s spent scanning countless photos and radiographs into (Dolphin) Imaging,through to pre-2010 when we changed to digital X-Rays. We are so fortunate now, to have instant access to records of patients treated thirty or more years ago and to be able to show patients their pre and post treatment images. Because we were also early adopters of fixed (commonly U2-2, L3-3) bonded retainers (“Flexis”), we commonly see patients because of bonding failures but much less frequently because of failed or relapsed treatments. As you wrote above, every treatment start is a new journey and every completion and follow-up an excitement.
    The evidence-based guidelines we were taught as graduate students and progressively over the years are as true now as they were in the past. I could not think of a more enjoyable occupation than providing the service to our patients.

  2. How about the privilege of an interdisciplinary team collectively working to create a win-win-win situation (patient/providers/staff)
    Colin Richman/404-784-7272

  3. What I most enjoy is to try new things, as a second generation of orthodontist and third of dentists in my family. I enjoy working with my father and in the future with my son. It’s a family tradition, and we are treating the children and grand children of my father’s patients.
    I have learned not ti try a new system or appliance before knowing how it works.
    Another thing that I enjoy is talking with some of my best friends who are orthodontists too and at the of the evening discussing some treatment alternatives for the more complex cases.

  4. I’m fortunate now to have treated children and grandchildren of patients. Nothing is more gratifying than having 2nd & 3rd generation patients .

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