What is an orthodontic therapist?

Orthodontic therapists are a relatively new addition to the orthodontic team. Their role is to work alongside a specialist orthodontist or dentist to perform routine orthodontic treatments. It’s now fairly common for NHS orthodontic treatment in particular to be carried out by orthodontic therapists under the supervision of a dentist or specialist.

What does orthodontic therapy training involve?

Trainee orthodontic therapists must undergo 45 weeks of full-time training – or the part-time equivalent – before they can qualify as fully-fledged orthodontic therapists. Orthodontic therapy is a popular choice of career progression among dental nurses, but dental hygienists, therapists and technicians are also eligible to apply for training.

Most orthodontic therapy courses provide an initial period of on-site training where students learn the theory of straightening teeth and begin their hands-on training. The remainder of the course is then carried out back at the student’s orthodontic practice or hospital department, where they’ll put their new-found skills into action. During this time, they will start to see patients as a trainee orthodontic therapist, while being supervised at every appointment by a specialist orthodontist.

Once an orthodontic therapist has completed their hands-on training and end-of-term assessments, they’ll be eligible to sit the Diploma of Orthodontic Therapy exam. Following the successful completion of this exam, they can register as an orthodontic therapist with the General Dental Council.

What treatments can orthodontic therapists provide?

Orthodontic therapists must work to the prescription of an orthodontist or dentist, and they can only carry out treatments that are reversible and non-invasive, for example:

  1. Taking impressions
  2. Fitting braces
  3. Adjusting brackets
  4. Changing archwires
  5. Removing braces
  6. Fitting retainers

Therapists cannot create treatment plans or carry out irreversible procedures. For example, they cannot use fast handpieces that could potentially remove dental enamel.

The standard of orthodontic therapy training is very high in the UK, and the role has been carefully developed to ensure that patients continue to receive a high standard of care and excellent results.

For more information on the Diploma in Orthodontic Therapy, visit www.rcseng.ac.uk/.