What is the difference between the American Association of Orthodontists, and the American Board of Orthodontics from the perspective of a patient?

When I am evaluating two orthodontists, one of whom is a member of the AAO, and one of whom is a member of the ABO, what do those affiliations tell me about the two orthodontists?

  • The AAO is in partnership with the ABO and sponsors the ABO. What this partnership or sponsorship entails is unclear.
    – Laura Dern
    Jul 24, 2022 at 17:54

2 Answers 2


In the American system of Dentistry, there are three levels:

  • Dentist
  • Orthodontist
  • Board Certified Orthodontist

This is visually demonstrated by the ABO here.

Dentists have passed sufficient tests to qualify for ADA membership. This is about 160,000 members in the USA.

Orthodontists have passed sufficient tests to qualify for AAO membership, which includes about 19,000 members.

Once you have passed these tests, you can voluntarily study and take exams offered by the ABO, which need renewing every 10 years.

The ABO is recognized by both the ADA and AAO (in fact it is their only recognized orthodontic board). About 150 members became Board Certified, or renewed, in September 2017.

Just for reference, they have a Facebook page:

and provide a list of questions to ask your potential orthodontist:

  • In this case, it sounds like the scenario "one of whom is a member of the AAO, and one of whom is a member of the ABO" doesn't actually m, ake any sense, because being a member of the ABO is a superset of being a member of the AAO.
    – M-Pixel
    Jan 21, 2018 at 16:04

AAO: is just an association that almost all ortho's belong to by default. ABO: is a board certification status that indicates that the doctor has gone through the optional process to become a diplomate of the ABO. Most ABO certified doc's are going to be very good. Doc's that are not ABO certified are by no means inferior, they have just not gone through the process yet. You cannot really use AAO/ABO as an accurate way to decide if a doctor is better than another doctor.

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