Orthodontist Assistant: Career Summary, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for orthodontist assistants. Get the facts about education and certification requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Dental Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Orthodontist Assistant?

Orthodontist assistants perform clerical and clinical duties in an orthodontic practice. They are typically in charge of setting up patient appointments and visits, keeping track of files and paperwork, and generally keeping the office organized. They also assist the orthodontist as necessary and may perform x-rays, general cleanings, and progress checks to see how a patient is progressing with orthodontic treatment. The following chart gives you an overview of a career as an orthodontist assistant.

Degree Required High school diploma, postsecondary diploma or associate's degree
Education Field of Study Dental assistant
Key Responsibilities Take patient x-rays and dental impressions; prepare patient and assist orthodontist during procedures; prepare, clean and sterilize instruments and other equipment; perform record keeping and billing tasks
Certification Some states require dental assistants to be certified; professional certification may be preferred by employers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 18% for all dental assistants*
Median Salary (2015) $35,980 for all dental assistants*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does an Orthodontic Assistant Do?

As an orthodontist assistant, you are a specialized dental professional and responsible for various administrative and medical duties. According to Monster.com, an assistant may adjust patients' braces, take X-rays, make molds of patients' teeth, and photograph the changes to patient's teeth due to their braces. You also perform administrative tasks, such as working the reception desk, making appointments, filling out billing and insurance information, and organizing patient records.

What Is the Employment Outlook?

Dental assistants in general can expect excellent job growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment is predicted to increase 18% from 2014-2024. A larger elderly population that retains their teeth and a focus in orthodontic and dental health is expected to be the driving force of this outlook. Additionally, older dentists and orthodontists who used fewer assistants in the past are being replaced by younger graduates who rely more on additional help.

What Are the Requirements?

There are a few ways in which you may become an assistant. While you may learn the trade through on-the-job training, you can also prepare for the job by taking dental hygiene courses. Some colleges offer continuing education classes that teach the basic skills needed to be an orthodontist assistant. The general courses taught for assistants are infection control, dental anatomy, preventative dentistry, dental radiology and oral pathology.

Additionally, there are organizations that offer certification in orthodontic assisting. While these certification courses may not be necessary to land a job, those certified may find higher paying jobs and more job opportunities. The Dental Assisting National Board (DAND) is an example of an organization that offers such certification. DANB certification involves completing a comprehensive test on assisting procedures and infection control.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The field of general dental assisting is similar to that of an orthodontic assistant, as the education and skill set required are essentially the same, though dental assistants may see a wider variety of dental patients and problems. If you're interested in other medical fields, you may consider a job as a medical assistant or a physical therapy assistant. Medical assistants may have both clinical and clerical responsibilities that include taking patients' vital signs and filing medical records. A certificate is the essential education requirement for this profession. Physical therapy assistants need an associate's degree and licensure or certification. These assistants help carry out a patient's care plan under the guidance of a physical therapist.

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