Background: Current knowledge of orthodontic practice is largely anecdotal and the lack of systematic knowledge can create barriers to better identifying the factors that make a successful orthodontist. The aim of this study was to investigate the routine practising lives of New Zealand orthodontists in order to generate an understanding of the reality of orthodontic specialist practice and its effects on their professional and personal lives.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted involving 19 practising orthodontists (four females, 15 males; mean age 50 years) throughout New Zealand.Transcribed interviews were analysed for themes using an applied grounded theory approach.
Results: A core category of 'practising orthodontists' was derived, and related themes were grouped under the sub-categories of: (a) NZ orthodontic specialist practice; (b) NZ specialist orthodontists; and (c) work-life balance. The present paper reports on the first two subcategories. Themes elucidated under the specialist practice sub-category included modernisation, changing social norms, practice arrangement, branch practice, staffing, competition, legislation, advertising, the future and the provision of orthodontics by non-specialists. Themes in the orthodontic specialist sub-category were prior experience, postgraduate training, recent graduates, reasons for specialising, generational differences, females in orthodontics, NZ and overseas practice, the ageing profession and the prospect of an orthodontist shortage.
Conclusions: This investigation has shed light on orthodontists and the practice of orthodontics in New Zealand and determined aspects rarely discussed in the current or previous literature. It will be valuable to observe how orthodontists and orthodontic practice continue to evolve in response to changes in NZ society.