Becoming an Orthodontic Therapist

Read about the role, history and training for Orthodontic Therapists including where to find out more

What is the role of the orthodontic therapist?

In 1999, the General Dental Council made the decision to register all Dental Care Professionals (DCPs) and form two new classes of personnel: orthodontic therapists and clinical dental technicians. Individuals can register and work as orthodontic therapists following the completion of an approved course and the award of the Diploma in Orthodontic Therapy or equivalent.

An orthodontic therapist can carry out a limited range of orthodontic treatment procedures, such as the placement of brackets and changing of orthodontic archwires, however, they are not expected to diagnose and treatment plan. They are expected to work to a prescription provided by a supervising orthodontist; it is recommended that the orthodontist is ‘on-site’ when the therapist is working as treatment plans may need revision at any stage.

How can I train to become an orthodontic therapist?

To train as an orthodontic therapist, you need to be qualified in dental nursing, dental hygiene, dental therapy or dental technology. Many applicants also have the Certificate in Orthodontic Nursing. There is also a requirement to demonstrate a period of post-qualification experience.

There are a number of approved institutions that provide structured courses in orthodontic therapy, and these institutions all have their own essential and desirable criteria for entry to the programme. The GDC require all orthodontic therapy students to train for a minimum of 45 weeks full-time, and training on a part-time basis is also available; the curriculum is outlined in the GDC document ‘Developing the Dental Team’. Many courses are structured such that there is an initial 4-week period of core skills teaching followed by a number of study days throughout the year. The rest of the training is carried out in the clinical setting where the trainee is working and can include specialist practice or a hospital setting. The supervising trainer must be on the GDC Orthodontic Specialist Register, and both the trainer and the clinical setting must meet a number of set requirements. The satisfactory completion of workplace reports, end-of-term assessments and a project allows entry to sit the Diploma of Orthodontic Therapy exam held at the Royal College of Surgeons.