Orthodontic therapy

By Sarah Macdonald DipOrthTher RCSEd

I often wonder, If i wasn’t straightening teeth, what on earth else would I be doing? For me this is the dream job, hands on, technical work, willing patients (mostly) and an enthusiastic team around me. But it wasn’t always a clear career path, perhaps a hidden twig within the branches of dentistry. The profession itself is reasonably new, about 10 years old, but I believe the introduction of therapists is crucial to meet the growing demand for Orthodontics due to an increase in quality healthcare, awareness, and to meet the (reasonably) recent acceleration of high aesthetic desires. For many prescribing clinicians, a therapist, whether it be orthodontic or dental, is a second pair of hands, and eyes for that matter.

For me the journey started on leaving my final year at school, with no definite direction ahead, I fell upon an advertisement in the local paper for a trainee general dental nurse for my local health board. Two short years later I’d passed my NEBDN exam with Merit. During this time I discovered my interest in all things teeth, and decided that this was the time to practice what we dental professionals preach, I mean, promote…

Being an image conscious young lady, the brace system I decided on was a fixed lingual appliance (the ones behind the teeth) and although there were a few hiccups along the way, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and an investment in my career and also personally. During one of my regular visits to the practice, my Orthodontist and I would often chat (yes whilst lying back in the chair with my mouth open and full of instruments, a bad habit most of us have), I spoke about how I’d like to develop my career and apply for dental therapy at University. This is where he told me about Orthodontic therapy, I hadn’t really heard of it before, the idea of being able to work and study at the same time appealed to me. He offered me a job in the practice working as a dental nurse almost on the spot, this is where I gained my dental radiography qualification and where I discovered my passion for Orthodontics. It was everything I could hope for in a job, truly a unique blend of the sciences and art, and I wanted a piece for myself.

I applied for a place at Edinburgh postgraduate dental institute and after participating in the selection and interview process with my trainer, was offered a place! The next year flew by, I learned more in 1 year than I had in the last 10, ha, perhaps because for the first time in my life I was truly interested in something. After qualifying I continued to work in that specialist practice for a further 3 years, before moving on to a cosmetic dental practice in central London, where I’ve been for almost 2 years, to expand my knowledge and experience. Although the work may not be as technical, it certainly throws up other challenges.

The most satisfying part of my job is gaining someones trust, as that’s a difficult thing to do for anyone, give their trust to a stranger, but I’m here to narrow the question and confusion filled void between the patient and that somewhat intimidating white coat.


I’m very grateful to Sarah for writing this article for me on her journey to becoming an orthodontic therapist and look forward to posting more articles from her in the future.