Specialty board certification is elective for orthodontists. That’s right. An orthodontist does not have to be Board Certified in order to practice orthodontics, and a general dentist practicing orthodontics cannot become board certified because a general dentist has not undergone the additional 2-3 years of training that it takes to become an actual orthodontist. Historically, only about 1 in 5 orthodontists completed all the requirements for full certification with the American Board of Orthodontics. Why? Because it is not easy. In order to increase the number of orthodontists who can claim to be certified, the American Board of Orthodontics has changed its policy to allow orthodontists to advertise that they are board certified if they have begun the certification process but not yet presented their completed treatment results to the Board. This can create confusion for the general public regarding which orthodontists have truly completed all aspects required for American Board of Orthodontics Certification. Years later, even with the relaxed standards, still only about 20% of all orthodontists are fully board certified.
The certification process requires multiple steps:
- A comprehensive 240 question written examination covering all aspects of orthodontics must be taken and passed.
- The candidate takes an in-person oral examination to assess their treatment planning abilities, orthodontic thought processes and knowledge of past and present research in orthodontics.
- Finally, the ABO certification candidate must present and defend a number of successfully treated patients who began with difficult malocclusions.
“In the real world of being a husband, dad and private practice orthodontist, it is difficult to make yourself go the extra step. I am glad that I completed the orthodontic specialty board certification process. I would encourage all of my peers to do the same. Becoming ABO certified does not necessarily make you better than other orthodontists, but the process of critical evaluation and analysis of my own work has definitely made me a better orthodontist than I was before.” – Dr. Rick Beckwith