Firstly, what does “Orthodontics” mean?
Orthodontics is dentistry (a field in medicine concerned with the study, diagnosis, and treatment of the oral cavity and teeth conditions) specialization concerned with correction and re-alignment of the teeth.
Generally, orthodontic assistants are dental assistants; otherwise, they are referred to as “Orthodontic hygienists.” Just like the name sound, an orthodontic assistant aid in the provision of care and treatment to patients.
This care encompasses the correction of all problems relating to the teeth (straightening of teeth, jaws re-alignment). They make use of dental gear, braces, dental appliances, and healthcare known as “preventative dental healthcare.”
An orthodontic assistant’s role is primarily supportive; they use their orthodontic degree or associate certificate to specialize and master the field of dentistry.
In summary, orthodontic assistants are dental assistants who help inspect patients while sitting on the dental chair, i.e, they give chairside help/assistance.
Roles of Orthodontic Assistants
One’s practice has a great influence on his/her job responsibilities. However, the major duty of an orthodontic assistant is to prepare patients and tools that will be used for the orthodontic procedures.
These procedures might include teeth cleaning, helping orthodontists with issues or emergencies concerning the teeth, and collecting patients’ x-rays or mouth impressions.
Duties of an Orthodontic assistant:
- Keeping patients’ previous oral health records correctly as well as the progress of the patient’s treatment.
- Collection of x-rays of patients mouths, otherwise known as “Mouth impressions”.
- As stated above, they make sure all instruments and equipment that will be used for the orthodontic procedures are sterilized properly before being used.
- Sensitizing and educating patients on proper oral hygiene, aftercare of braces, and appointment and orthodontic procedures.
- Removal and replacement of worn-out features of instruments and tools such as wires, donuts, coil springs and elastic bands.
- Taking photos of a patient’s teeth to help the orthodontist develop treatment plans and track their progress.
- Taking the molds of a patient’s dentition so that mouthguards and retainers can be fabricated, as well as customized.
- Preparation of appointment room before the visit of a patient.
- Performing administrative duties such as appointments arrangements, biling, and taking payments.
- Updating of patients charts as well as organize the orthodontic office.
- Collaboration with supervising orthodontist during the routine itself as well as during emergency procedures.
Skills necessary to become an Orthodontic Assistant:
Some vital skills of great pertinence to an orthodontic assistant include:
- Interpersonal skills
- Organizational skills
- Excellent oral and written communication skills
- Good with collaboration that is teamwork
- Good manual dexterity.
- Attention to details
- Good with coordination of the eye and hand.
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How to become an Orthodontic assistant:
One can bag a certificate or associate’s degree in dental assisting.
Typically, an orthodontist firstly earns a bachelor’s degree, afterward proceed to earn a doctorate (Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S) or Doctor of Medical Dentistry (D.M.D) degree) which could take up to four years and then complete a residency of between 3-5 years based on the Institution’s policy.
However, the reverse is the case for an orthodontic assistant as their education provides dental health knowledge and training on the clinical and technical aspects.
To become a dental assistant, you must complete a 9-11 month dental assisting certificate or degree program.
This program can be accessed through vocational or technical schools, universities, community colleges, and dental schools.
In addition to the program, a license must be gotten as well; this varies accordingly on the requirements of one’s state.
Requirements in becoming an Orthodontic Dental Assistant:
Kindly note that National certification can be obtained through the DNAB CDA examination, an acronym for the “Dental Assisting National Board Certified Dental Assistant” examination.
The regulations for each state vary when it comes to certifications and the allowable range of duties for a dental assistant.
For instance, some states allow orthodontic assistants to place an appliance into a patient’s mouth, while in some states, this direct contact is prohibited. See below for the requirements.
In becoming an orthodontic assistant, the following requirements are needed:
- GED, otherwise known as High school diploma.
- CPR certification
- A license to enable orthodontic assistance.
- An associate’s degree in dental assisting.
- An Orthodontic assistant certification by the Dental Assisting National Body (DANB)
- Practical experience of having worked as an orthodontic assistant.
- Vast knowledge of various orthodontic procedures and practices.
- Good with manual usage of the hands.
- Skills such as interpersonal skills, organizational and communication skills.
Salary and Employment Expectations of an Orthodontic Assistant
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) keeps data records and creates projections of all jobs, and orthodontic assistants aren’t out of it.
The BLS gives information on orthodontic assistants; there is a projection of a seven percent (7%) job growth rate for orthodontic assistants through the year 2029; as with occupations, one’s location is a major factor/influence that affects one’s earnings.
According to CHRON, orthodontic assistants’ salaries are grouped by state.
In Washington, the highest average earnings per hour is $20.67 or, generally, $43,001, while the lowest average earning in North Carolina is ($27,643 or $13.29 per hour).
Note: Use employment websites such as
- Monster; for salary updates in each state.
- Dental Assistants – Bureau of Labor Statistics
With the rapid growth of the population of the elderly comes an increased need for preventative dental healthcare. There’s a growth in demand for orthodontic assistants.
According to Payscale.com, in the year 2020, orthodontic assistants receive an average salary of $34,777, while the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics projected the average 2020 earnings for orthodontic assistants as $41,180 or $19.80 per hour.
In conclusion, it is noteworthy that orthodontic assistants have great importance in taking responsibility for patients’ care and could take up the role of an orthodontist if one isn’t available.
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