Determining which orthodontic residency program is right for you is usually a matter of determining what you are looking to get out of the residency experience: prestige, relationship building, and influence in the local community are all elements that must be weighed before making a decision. While the most competitive and well-ranked programs might give your professional reputation a boost, ranking is not the only factor. Residency programs typically last two years or more, which is a substantial investment of time. In order to ensure your happiness and success, it is a good idea to look for programs with a good feel. Some of this will depend on the geographic location and the patient base, and some of it will depend on the professors, instructors, and other colleagues.
Your search for the perfect orthodontic residency program should start with applications. Most residency programs throughout the United States and Great Britain require completed applications to be submitted nearly a year in advance, often October 1 for an early summer start time. This means that you will need to begin researching residency programs well in advance.
When you are researching, look out for course ranking, but also take note of more subjective measurements like quality of teaching and congeniality of the learning environment. Information on what kind of patients residents handle is also valuable. Core areas of research are important, but should not sway your decision too much.
Residency participation is one of the only ways to study orthodontics in any depth, and most orthodontic residency programs culminate in a degree in orthodontic medicine. As such, the programs usually cover orthodontics comprehensively. Even if you know that you want to practice pediatric orthodontics, for instance, or reconstructive orthodontics, you need not choose a specifically pediatric or reconstructive residency program. These are rare, and you will learn all you need to know about a variety of orthodontic disciplines over the course of any accredited residency program. Once you have completed your residency, you can then choose to practice as an orthodontic specialist.
Orthodontic residency programs are typically highly competitive. Schools and hospital systems often accept only one or two residents per year. A lot of what makes a residency program the best one for you may be simply that you were accepted into it.
One of the best ways to boost your chances of success is to start your planning early, usually well before your last year of dental school. Most orthodontic residency programs require not only dental school transcripts but also personal statements, recommendations from professors and clinical advisers, and often also an endorsement from your school’s dean of dentistry. These individuals should be contacted well in advance of the deadline. If possible, schedule a series of meetings with them to explain your interest in pursuing an orthodontics residency. The more information they have about you, the stronger their letters of recommendation will be.
Licensing rules vary by jurisdiction, but participation in an orthodontic residency program is generally required for a dentist to be licensed as an orthodontist. Choosing an orthodontic residency program can be a daunting task, but the decision is often easier with a clearly defined list of goals and expectations. Residency programs are not required in order to become an orthodontic assistant or other hygienist. These support staff must participate in a variety of professional training programs, but the doctorate-level research undertaken in a residency program is not included.