Summary: Jane Wright, DDS, MS, a College of Diplomates of the American Board of Orthodontics councillor, talks to Orthodontic Products about how the organization can help orthodontists throughout their career. She explains the distinction between the ABO and CDABO and how the CDABO supports board-certified orthodontists through education, networking, and family-friendly annual meetings. 

Key Takeaways:

  • The American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) establishes board certification requirements and oversees testing and recertification, while the College of Diplomates of the American Board of Orthodontics (CDABO) hosts meetings and provides support for orthodontists.
  • Just because you are ABO certified, you are not automatically a member of CDABO. The two organizations have separate membership dues. 
  • The CDABO holds annual family-oriented meetings and ABO prep courses to support orthodontists in their certification journey. The next annual meeting will take place in Colorado Springs, Colo, in July 2025. 

If you’re a board-certified orthodontist, you may have heard of the College of Diplomates of the American Board of Orthodontics (CDABO). You may believe that because you are ABO certified, you are automatically a member of CDABO. It would be less confusing if that were true, but the two are separate organizations.

To learn what the CDABO is and how the organization helps orthodontists during their career, Orthodontic Products spoke to Jane Wright, DDS, MS, CDABO councilor and orthodontist practicing at Crawford & Wright Orthodontics in Kenosha, Wis.

Orthodontic Products: What is the difference between the ABO and the CDABO?

Wright: The American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) establishes the requirements for board certification, oversees testing candidates, and manages recertification. There are no annual meetings, but there is a “membership fee” to keep ABO board status active and grant orthodontists access to patient education materials, plaques, certificates, tools, etc. The College of Diplomates (CDABO) is like the scientific and social party for ABO members. We’ve got boots on the ground hosting meetings, ABO prep-courses, and grading resident case displays at the annual AAO meeting. Founded in 1979, the College of Diplomates meets annually, usually in July, for a family-oriented scientific meeting.

OP: Why should an orthodontist get board certified?

Wright: Becoming and maintaining ABO certification is good for our patients, good for us as practitioners and it is good for the profession. It is important that we hold ourselves to the highest level of excellence and that the standard of excellence is based on current scientific literature. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the weight of clinical practice on our shoulders while trying to keep up with the most current studies and cutting-edge techniques. CDABO is here to support board certified orthodontists through education and social networking.

OP: Why should an orthodontist join the College of Diplomates and how does it support them once they are board certified?

Wright: We have amazing meetings. They are usually held at unique, high-end resorts in locations that one might not otherwise visit. Examples include Halifax, Whistler, Halfmoon Bay, Coeur d’Alene, Kohler, Lake Tahoe, and the list goes on. Highly respected scientific lecturers present for three half-day sessions with a small, intimate group of our peers. I’m often star-struck at our family breakfasts when program directors, textbook authors, and highly published orthodontists are sitting across the table from us asking our kids what they plan to do that day. These “rock-star” orthodontists are extremely accessible at the CDABO meetings; they might sit next to you on the gondola or help launch your raft in the water. This collegiate atmosphere of CDABO really sets it apart from other ortho meetings.

But, the College of Diplomates is about more than just the annual meeting. We support and encourage orthodontists to become board certified and maintain their ABO status. CDABO hosts a prep-course for residents and orthodontists preparing to take the ABO exam and recently launched a recertification prep-course for orthodontists who are due to recertify. These courses are usually held two to three times per year at the AAO, the CDABO meeting, and a constituent meeting, and we are working to make the courses available for remote learning as well.

OP: Are there separate annual membership fees to join the College of Diplomates?

Wright: Yes, separate fees because the AAO and CDABO are separate organizations. However, the annual membership fee to be a college member is nominal (it’s less than what I charge to remake a lost clear retainer for a patient).

OP: What does the annual membership fee go towards?  

Wright: The membership fee gets you an invite to the amazing annual CDABO meeting, supports our efforts to host ABO prep courses, allows you free ABO recertification courses, and helps us spread awareness on the benefits of board certification. We also host resident case displays at the AAO, which encourages and gives confidence to residents before they seek board certification. None of this would be possible without our CDABO members.

Photos of the 2023 CDABO annual meeting in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. All photos courtesy of Jane Wright, DDS, MS.

OP: The College of Diplomates meets annually. The next meeting will take place in Colorado Springs, Colo, July 11 to 14, 2025. What can attendees expect and learn from the annual meeting?

Wright: We have a phenomenal speaker line-up to take us “back to the future.” Orthodontics is evolving as a profession. What used to be “plaster on the table” has evolved into evaluating micro and macro esthetics, function, and overall health. Facial esthetics, protecting the smile arc and how soft tissue affects the final smile are becoming more important in the orthodontic profession of the future. We’re not just aligning teeth. Attendees will learn international concepts that are pushing orthodontics to new heights as a specialty. These are exciting times for our profession and the topics discussed will open your mind to new possibilities.

OP: Given that the meeting is taking place in the summer when the children of many orthodontists are home on summer vacation, does the event welcome families?  

Wright: The annual CDABO meetings are extremely family friendly. Scientific lectures are only in the morning and the afternoon is left open for ABO prep courses, networking with colleagues, or fun family activities. It goes without saying that summer is a busy time in orthodontic practices around the country. However, the lectures and experiences from the annual meeting will be memories that last forever. Patients will still be there when you get back and these family experiences are precious.

OP: You grew up going to the CDABO annual meetings with your father. How have those memories shaped your relationship to the CDABO as an orthodontist yourself?

Wright: Yes, I grew up with the CDABO meetings as our main summer family vacation. I remember feeling like royalty as we would show up at gorgeous five-star resorts. My dad would go to lectures in the morning and by the time we were all fully awake and fed, our afternoon family adventures would start. White water rafting, gondola rides, horseback riding, hot air balloon rides, all planned by the CDABO team. There are family breakfasts, a welcome reception, and president’s dinner. Some of my best family memories came from those trips so it’s understandable why I too wanted to become board certified and join the College. What’s awesome is that some of us who were kids at these meetings years ago are now orthodontists bringing our children to the meetings. It’s really special.

OP: For those eligible to join the CDABO or who have let their membership lapse, how can they join or get their membership reinstated?

Wright: With the flurry of emails that we get every day, some members have missed the dues notices, not renewed their memberships, and have sadly been dropped from the College of Diplomates. If you know you have been dropped or are worried that you may have been, please email [email protected] and ask for your membership to be reinstated. We want you back. If you are ABO certified and have never been a CDABO member, please join us for higher education, additional learning resources, and memorable summer meetings. You can learn more at OP