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Become An Orthodontic Assistant

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Working As An Orthodontic Assistant

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Getting Information
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Repetitive

  • $70,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Orthodontic Assistant Do

Dental assistants perform many tasks, ranging from patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work. 

Duties

Dental assistants typically do the following:

  • Ensure that patients are comfortable in the dental chair
  • Prepare patients and the work area for treatments and procedures
  • Sterilize dental instruments
  • Help dentists by handing them instruments during procedures
  • Keep patients’ mouths dry by using suction hoses and other equipment
  • Instruct patients in proper oral hygiene
  • Process x rays and complete lab tasks, under the direction of a dentist
  • Keep records of dental treatments
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Work with patients on billing and payment

Assistants who perform lab tasks, such as taking impressions of a patient’s teeth, work under the direction of a dentist. They may prepare materials for dental impressions or to create temporary crowns.

All dental assistants complete certain tasks, such as helping dentists with procedures and keeping patient records. Dental assistants are allowed to perform the following procedures in some states:

  • Coronal polishing
  • Sealant application
  • Fluoride application
  • Topical anesthetic application

Coronal polishing, which means removing soft deposits such as plaque, gives teeth a cleaner appearance. In sealant application, a dental assistant paints a thin, plastic substance over teeth that seals out food particles and acid-producing bacteria to keep teeth from developing cavities. Fluoride application, in which fluoride is put directly on the teeth, is another anticavity measure. Some dental assistants may be qualified to apply topical anesthetic to an area of a patient’s mouth, temporarily numbing the area to help prepare a patient for procedures.

Each state regulates the scope of practice for dental assistants.

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How To Become An Orthodontic Assistant

There are several possible paths to becoming a dental assistant. Some states require assistants to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam. In other states, there are no formal educational requirements.

Education

Some states require dental assistants to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam. Most programs are offered by community colleges, although they also may be offered by vocational or technical schools. Most programs take about 1 year to complete and lead to a certificate or diploma. Programs that last 2 years are less common and lead to an associate’s degree. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), part of the American Dental Association, accredited nearly 300 dental assisting training programs in 2015.

Accredited programs include classroom and laboratory work in which students learn about teeth, gums, jaws, and other areas that dentists work on and the instruments that dentists use. These programs also include supervised practical experience.

High school students interested in a career as a dental assistant should take courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy.

Training

Dental assistants who do not have formal education in dental assisting may learn their duties through on-the-job training. A dental assistant or dentist in the office teaches the new assistant dental terminology, the names of the instruments, how to complete daily tasks, how to interact with patients, and other activities necessary to help keep the dental office running smoothly.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Dental assistants must follow specific rules and protocols, such as infection control procedures, when helping dentists treat patients. Assistants also must be aware of what tasks they are allowed to complete in the state where they work.

Dexterity. Dental assistants must be good at working with their hands. They generally work in tight quarters on a small part of the body, using very precise tools and instruments.

Interpersonal skills. Dental assistants must work closely with dentists and patients. Sometimes, patients are in extreme pain and/or mental stress, so the assistant should be sensitive to their emotions.

Listening skills. Dental assistants should be able to listen to patients and other healthcare workers. They need to follow directions from a dentist or dental hygienist, so they can help treat patients and do tasks, such as taking an x ray.

Organizational skills. Dental assistants should have excellent organizational skills. They should have the correct tools in place for a dentist or dental hygienist to use when treating a patient.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require dental assistants to be licensed, registered, or certified. In other states, there are no formal requirements to become an entry-level dental assistant.

States that allow assistants to perform expanded duties, such as coronal polishing, require that they be licensed, registered, or hold certifications from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). To earn certification from DANB, applicants must pass an exam. The educational requirements for DANB certification are that dental assistants must either have graduated from an accredited program or have a high school diploma and complete the required amount of work experience. Applicants also must have current certification in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

In addition, many states require assistants to meet specific education or training requirements in order to work with radiography (x ray) equipment. Requirements vary by state. Contact state boards of dentistry for specific requirements.

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Orthodontic Assistant Career Paths

Orthodontic Assistant
Dental Hygienist Clinical Instructor Instructor
Account Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Surgical Assistant Staff Nurse Service Director
Assistant General Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Surgical Assistant Surgical Technician Operations Manager
Center Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Treatment Coordinator Therapist Program Director
Chief Executive Officer
8 Yearsyrs
Scheduling Coordinator Client Service Specialist Client Manager
Client Account Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Clinical Instructor Dentist
Dental Services Director
8 Yearsyrs
Office Manager Operations Manager
General Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Home Care Nurse Direct Support Professional
Home Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Oral Surgery Assistant Surgical Assistant Veterinary Technician
Hospitality Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Office Manager Human Resources Coordinator
Human Resources Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Office Administrator Logistics Coordinator Logistics Specialist
Logistics Lead
6 Yearsyrs
Treatment Coordinator Office Manager
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Clinical Coordinator Adjunct Professor Attorney
Partner
6 Yearsyrs
Clinical Coordinator Administrative Coordinator Patient Access Representative
Patient Account Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Home Health Aid Quality Inspector Quality Control Manager
Quality Control Director
9 Yearsyrs
Medical Assistant Service Representative Account Executive
Relationship Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Medical Assistant Account Representative Account Executive
Sales/Marketing
5 Yearsyrs
Oral Surgery Assistant Office Manager Technician
Service Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Dental Hygienist Instructor Operations Manager
Site Manager
7 Yearsyrs
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Orthodontic Assistant Demographics

Gender

Female

90.1%

Male

8.6%

Unknown

1.2%
Ethnicity

White

60.5%

Hispanic or Latino

19.0%

Black or African American

10.7%

Asian

6.4%

Unknown

3.3%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

68.3%

Polish

6.1%

French

4.9%

Portuguese

2.4%

Chinese

2.4%

German

2.4%

Albanian

2.4%

Italian

2.4%

Vietnamese

1.2%

Turkish

1.2%

Russian

1.2%

Hebrew

1.2%

Dakota

1.2%

Arabic

1.2%

Tamil

1.2%
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Orthodontic Assistant Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

10.9%

Anne Arundel Community College

8.0%

Northern Virginia Community College

8.0%

Liberty University

6.6%

Porter and Chester Institute

5.8%

Old Dominion University

5.1%

Everest Institute

5.1%

Boston University

5.1%

Ultimate Medical Academy - Clearwater

4.4%

Delgado Community College

4.4%

Texas State Technical College - Waco

3.6%

University of North Texas

3.6%

Ashford University

3.6%

Troy University

3.6%

Monroe Community College

3.6%

College of DuPage

3.6%

Niagara County Community College

3.6%

Sinclair Community College

3.6%

University of Illinois at Chicago

3.6%

Concorde Career College

3.6%
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Majors

Dental Assisting

38.8%

Business

9.2%

Advanced Dentistry And Oral Sciences

5.8%

Biology

5.1%

Nursing

5.0%

General Studies

4.7%

Psychology

3.9%

Nuclear And Industrial Radiologic Technologies

3.8%

Health Care Administration

3.8%

Dentistry

2.5%

Medical Assisting Services

2.4%

Liberal Arts

2.3%

Criminal Justice

2.0%

Education

1.9%

Accounting

1.7%

Medical Technician

1.6%

Cosmetology

1.5%

Nursing Assistants

1.5%

Elementary Education

1.4%

Management

1.3%
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Degrees

Other

40.9%

Bachelors

19.6%

Associate

16.7%

Certificate

12.8%

Diploma

3.8%

Masters

3.8%

License

1.5%

Doctorate

1.0%
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Top Skills for An Orthodontic Assistant

  1. Patient Care
  2. Oral Hygiene
  3. Digital X-Rays
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Administered routine patient care and monitoring, including instrument and material setup and sterilization.
  • Delivered patients their personal oral hygiene instructions.
  • Utilized proficient knowledge of digital radiology to take digital x-rays.
  • Perform required procedures including placement of orthodontic appliances.
  • Provided secondary support for office management by scheduling appointments, handling payment transactions and maintaining files.

How Would You Rate Working As an Orthodontic Assistant?

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