Graduate Orthodontic Program

The graduate program in orthodontics at the University of Tennessee begins in August of each year and continues for 34 consecutive months until graduation. This period of study provides for intensive instruction and training in the biological and clinical sciences related to the specialty of orthodontics. The course of instruction is designed to satisfy all requirements for eligibility for licensure as a specialist, the specialty board in orthodontics, and the Master of Science degree. The program, fully accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, is well rounded and provides balanced training in clinical orthodontics, the basic sciences, and research. Our goal is to prepare the graduate to pursue many career possibilities: a clinical practice limited to orthodontics, a researcher or a teacher of orthodontics.

Instruction in Basic Sciences

Instruction in the basic sciences at the postgraduate level is designed to provide knowledge concerning the human form beyond that learned in dental school. Fundamental knowledge regarding all aspects of the human system is taught with a particular focus on growth, development, and the biological aspects of tooth movement and alteration of bones. Basic instruction also focuses on new technologies; computer science is an integral part of the curriculum.

Clinical Experience

The development of diagnostic and treatment skills is a major facet of our mission to our graduate students. Orthodontic courses are presented by lecture, laboratory demonstration, and seminar methods. Courses on theory are correlated with and supplemented by the treatment of malocclusions in the clinic with multi-banded/bonded techniques, removable appliances, or combined orthodontic-surgical procedures. Several modifications of the edgewise appliance as well as standard edgewise are taught. Each student receives a great deal of faculty attention throughout the program.

In the clinic, students are exposed to a wide array of patient types. Children, adolescents, and adults are treated; consequently, students are exposed to treatment in the deciduous, mixed, and adult dentitions. Students are also exposed to patients with compromised dentitions who require consideration of periodontal, restorative, and temporomandibular joint intervention. As a result, many patients are treated by an interdisciplinary approach with other health professionals.

Research and the Thesis

No less enthusiastic interest is shown by the faculty in the other aspect of our mission: contributing to the knowledge of the profession through basic research. Each graduate student works closely with faculty advisors to develop an original clinical or basic science research project. The topics for research are limitless and usually develop from areas of specific interest "discovered" by the student. A reasonable project is worked out with the help of faculty counsel. This initial step is followed by a period of in-depth literary investigation to determine what is and is not already known about the particular subject. Then, the equipment and materials are organized, and whatever techniques and methods to be used are learned. Required laboratory equipment is available across the campus, from computers to electron microscopes. The work begins and, finally, results are analyzed and evaluated.

The research project begins in the first year and is carried out during scheduled research time and during off-clinic periods. This research experience is an integral part of the Graduate Program, and we expect a worthwhile study that will represent a solid, meaningful contribution to the field of orthodontics. A written thesis of acceptable literary and scientific merit is prepared along with a manuscript suitable for publication so that this new knowledge may become available to the profession.

We have observed that the research portion of our orthodontic program is a stimulating and rewarding experience for each graduate student. We are genuinely proud of our students' achievements in research. Incoming students who have already been involved in research projects will find these past experiences helpful, regardless of the prior topics. Graduate students without a background in research, however, should not feel apprehensive. This "different" form of learning is foreign to the common educational experience, and students will receive help to accomplish a genuinely exciting research study.


The principle clinic area for the department is housed on the third floor of the Dunn Dental Building.  A total renovation of the James L. Vaden clinic area and associated spaces was completed in the summer of 2013 resulting in a contemporary environment which fully utilizes current technology.  The department has within its clinic area a full-scan capable CBCT unit, two intra-oral scanners, two desk top scanners, a dedicated laser treatment room, a supply dispensary and an instrument sterilization room.  Within the department are situated all business offices, clinical staff offices, laboratory facilities, an orthodontic library and the Walter C. Sandusky conference room for departmental instruction and videoconferencing. 

Additionally, the classroom and lecture halls of the UTHSC campus and the UT library are valuable facilities for study and instruction. 

ABO Certification

Every student is required to complete the ABO written examination in the spring of the second year. The department encourages every student to seek certification by the American Board of Orthodontics upon completion of the program by presenting clinical material to the board. All cases treated in the graduate clinic will be reviewed by faculty who will use the guidelines of the ABO clinical examination. The department attempts to assure that every graduate will be prepared to successfully complete the ABO ICE examination and requires that each student register for that examination while enrolled in the program.

Sources of Further Information

Additional inquiries about the training program itself should be directed to the Program Director of the Department of Orthodontics. Any questions regarding application or admission to the College of Dentistry should be directed to the College's Associate Dean of Admissions.

  • College of Dentistry
    The University of Tennessee
    875 Union Avenue
    Memphis, Tennessee 38163

Orthodontics room

Contact Us

Graduate Orthodontic Program
875 Union Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38163
Phone: 901-448-6213
Fax: 901-448-8358

Program Director:
Richard A. Williams, D.D.S., M.S.