Snow day here in Greenwood and much of SC! We are closing for the morning, but we are going to start straightening teeth right after lunch.

This is the first, of hopefully many useful Blogs, we will be putting online forMcCallum Orthodontics, in Greenwood SC and Clinton, SC. Since this is the beginning, I thought I would start out with some basics about Orthodontics as a profession. What is an Orthodontist? Do they go to school? Are you a Dentist? Can you do fillings, cleanings, or pull teeth? Those are a few of questions I get asked about Orthodontics.

Since school is out today,lets start with education first. Orthodontists go to college prior to applying to dental School. After four years of college, you go to Dental school for four years. The first year or two is very similar to medical school. We take Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, etc. While you are learning the sciences, you are introduced to the art of Dentistry. You begin learning about teeth and dental disease, as well as learning the materials associated with practicing dentistry. It can be pretty crazy. As you progress to the third and fourth years of dental school, the focus becomes more patient oriented, and you begin to sharpen your skills with dental procedures. In dental school you learn all the various aspects of dentistry.

After dental school, dentists can go many different directions. Some go straight into private practice, others go into residencies for more training, and some go into specialty training. There are nine recognized dental specialties. For example, Orthodontics (braces), Periodontics (gums), Oral Surgery, and Pedodontics (children), are a few common ones.

Specialty training is usually three years of focused training, after the four years of dental school, and the four years of college. So, to make a long story short, Orthodontists are Dentists that have gone through several extra years of training to learn the art and science of straightening teeth. We know how to do fillings, extractions, root canals, etc. but we have chosen to focus on the alignment of the teeth and jaws.

I like doing dentistry, but, I love straightening teeth. I love the mechanical aspects of the profession. From a young age, I knew what I wanted to do and I consider it part of my DNA. I grew up in an Orthodontic office. My father is an Orthodontist, and in his late seventies, he still comes to the office and helps out with lab work. I started when I was a young kid hanging out in the lab playing with wires and soldering various things together. Back in those days, Orthodontists made most of their appliances by hand. It was tedious and time consuming.  As I grew older, I began fabricating appliances. I continued working as a lab tech through dental school and even during Orthodontic training to earn some extra money.  Still today, I make most of my appliances by hand. Old fashion? Probably, but it is what I enjoy.

After twenty years of doing the same thing, you would think it would get old. Not a chance! I enjoy being an Orthodontist more than ever. Every day is unique, and every year brings new technology. I think I enjoy Orthodontics more now, than I did when I first started. I have seen two generations of Orthodontics, I have seen us evolve from “railroad tracks and headgear” to clear aligners and digital imaging.

What is the future for Orthodontics? I dont know, but I pray for the health to practice for many more years, to see it and enjoy being a part of it. Next blog? Hold your breath…… How do teeth move!!


Thanks for reading!

dr. ernest

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