By Alison Werner

alison picA recent column by Marty Nemko in U.S. News & World Report called orthodontics one of the 10 “hidden-gem careers for 2013 and beyond.” In fact, a career as an orthodontist ranked number one—above audiologist, optometrist, and genetic counselor.

So why is a career in orthodontics a hidden gem, especially in the health care field? According to Nemko, a career as an orthodontist has many advantages over other health professions: a greater patient success rate, the opportunity for regular hours, and fewer patient emergencies—ie, less stress. But Nemko points out one more advantage: the nature of orthodontic treatment means an orthodontist sees patients frequently over long periods of time, allowing them to develop lasting relationships with those patients.

For Jeffrey T. Kozlowski, DDS, who is featured in this month’s cover story, that was exactly what drew him to the profession. He wanted a career that allowed him to build relationships with his patients, as well as their families, and have a direct, positive impact on their lives. “For me, orthodontics was kind of the best of the medical and dental world,” he says. “I saw it as an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, but in a way that is always positive.”

So that explains why a career in orthodontics is a gem. But why is a career in orthodontics so hidden?

When it came time for Kozlowski to choose a career in orthodontics, he had the benefit of growing up as the son of an orthodontist. He saw firsthand the work-life balance the profession allowed and the opportunity to positively affect patients’ lives. Working on Orthodontic Products for the last couple years, I’ve always been impressed by the number of orthodontists for whom orthodontics is the family business. Clearly, growing up with a family member in the field has been a great endorsement for the profession.

But for many high school seniors making choices about college in the coming months and current college students settling on a major, the decision to pursue a career in orthodontics won’t be a result of family connections. It will be a result of their own personal experience as a patient.

We often talk in the pages of this magazine about the importance of good relationships with patients and parents for future referrals and the success of the practice. But those good relationships are a key factor in the continued success of the profession. The good relationships you cultivate with your young patients and the positive impact you have on their self-esteem will influence the career choices they make.

You may not realize it, but you are the best advocate your profession has. You not only have the ability to influence the movement of teeth, but you have the ability to influence your patients’ lives, and, more importantly, their futures in more ways than you think. OP