Gainesville orthodontist Nicole Mullally said being an orthodontist is a rewarding profession because it offers the possibility to change people’s lives through their smile.
“I didn’t think this was possible,” the owner of Studio 32 Orthodontics said a patient once told her. “This is the smile I’ve always dreamed of.”
The patient then walked into the office lobby and said, “That little lady [Mullally] just performed a miracle on me.”
Mullally’s profession is one that U.S. News and World Report says is the No. 1 job for this year. It tops the list of the 25 best jobs of 2016, which uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine which jobs have the highest hiring demand.
U.S. News scores the list based on seven components: median salary, employment rate, 10-year growth volume, 10-year growth percentage, job prospects, stress level and work-life balance.
According to the Bureau Labor of Statistics, the median annual salary for orthodontists in 2014 was equal to or greater than $187,199 per year. The entire field of dentistry is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, according to the bureau.
In addition the report’s findings, Mullally said orthodontists have other perks, including flexible hours and the ability to be their own boss. She and other Gainesville orthodontists said they aren’t surprised at the U.S. News’ No. 1 rating.
But the job isn’t without hangups, Mullally said.
Orthodontists’ biggest frustration is when patients are non-compliant, she said. This includes patients not brushing their teeth properly or using bands with their braces, which can lead to teeth moving or white spots forming where the brackets were.
Patients and doctors work as a team, Mullally said, so connecting with patients is an important way to encourage proper tooth maintenance.
Studio 32 patient Ni Schroder said the dental work she’s received makes her feel more confident.
Braces “help you to look good,” Schroder, 43, said. “When you look good, you love yourself.”
Schroder said braces aren’t just for younger generations, noting how her grandmother got braces when she was 70.
People need to look good their whole life, she added.
Another Studio 32 patient, 30-year-old Tiffany Green, said she smiles a lot now that the gap in her teeth is fixed — something she’d wanted done for a long time.
Green said orthodontists have a rewarding career because they help people be excited about how they look.
Patients generally enjoy coming to the orthodontist because it’s “the investment of a lifetime,” said Patricia Tapley, orthodontist and co-owner of Pappas and Tapley Orthodontics in Gainesville.
The practice’s other owner, Janet Pappas, said going to a regular dentist to receive treatment is like getting new tires on a car: It’s something that has to be done, but patients don’t appreciate it. Orthodontists, on the other hand, are able to produce a beautiful smile that patients enjoy and appreciate, she added.
“The patients who are coming here are all coming here because they want to,” Pappas said.
The best part of being an orthodontist is treating young people in a non-threatening environment, said Richard Donatelli, an orthodontist and assistant professor in the University of Florida’s department of orthodontics. Being able to watch patients as their confidence increases is enjoyable, he added.
Orthodontists have a pleasant lifestyle and an appreciative patient base, Donatelli said. But, he added, it’s very much a profession of perfection.
“Orthodontists not only improve function but can have a dramatic effect on confidence and personal appearance,” he said. “When I’m looking at the alignment of the teeth, instead of seeing the 99 percent improvement, I dwell on that 1 percent that isn’t as perfect as my mind’s eye.”