Orthodontist Assistant Education Requirements and Career Info

Working as an orthodontic assistant requires little formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Orthodontist assistants are specialized dental aides who work with patients receiving or wearing dental gear. They might take x-rays and photos of mouths, adjust braces and make teeth impressions. Becoming an orthodontist assistant generally requires completion of a dental assisting certificate or degree program. Additionally, orthodontist assistants might need to be licensed, depending on the requirements of their state.

Required Education Certificate or associate's degree in dental assisting
Licensing and Certification Licensing and/or certification is required in some states; certification is offered by the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB)
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 25% for dental assistants*
Median Annual Salary (2014) $30,844 for orthodontic assistants**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Orthodontist Assistant Education Requirements

Many potential orthodontist assistants prepare for the career by enrolling in dental assisting training programs. These programs are available at community colleges and vocational schools and might result in a certificate or associate's degree in dental assisting.

Certificate

Dental assisting certificate programs typically take one year to complete and prepare students for entry-level assisting positions alongside dentists. Admission requirements typically include a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. Dental assisting certificate programs generally focus on the technical aspects of the occupation, including dental radiography, chair-side assisting and dental materials. Students take laboratory and clinical classes.

Associate's Degree

Prospective orthodontist assistants seeking a more comprehensive education might pursue an associate's degree in dental assisting. These 2-year programs incorporate general education with clinical and technical training. Core courses might include dental science, infection control, advanced radiography, dental emergencies, preventative dentistry and clinical practice procedures. Students are typically required to complete internships or externships in a dental clinic.

Orthodontics Assistant Training

Orthodontics assistants (OAs) are regular dental assistants with expanded functions. Some states recognize OA as a separate occupation, where as other states group OAs with dental assistants. Some community colleges offer a course in orthodontic assisting. Students must have completed a dental assisting program and be working for an orthodontist who will oversee the clinical portion of the course.

Courses might be offered online. Students typically must complete 52 hours of instruction and must log 500 hours working in an orthodontic practice. Students learn to conduct initial exams, chart and assist with procedures.

Orthodontist Assistant Career Info

Orthodontist assistants help dental professionals install and check gear that straightens teeth and corrects other oral problems. Specific job duties can vary by practice, but orthodontist assistants generally prep patients and tools for orthodontic procedures. This might include cleaning teeth, making minor adjustments to dental gear, taking x-rays or impressions of patients' mouths and assisting orthodontists in dental emergencies. Orthodontist assistants also might be responsible for clerical duties, such as retrieving patient records and maintaining inventory.

Certification

DANB awards the Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) credential to applicants who pass infection control and orthodontic assisting exams. Orthodontic assistants can qualify for certification through a combination of education, work experience and/or other credentials, such as RDA (registered dental assistant), RDH (registered dental hygienist) or CDA (certified dental assistant); they also need CPR certification.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment rates for dental assistants were expected to increase 25% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Job growth will be an effect of larger workloads for dentists and a subsequent greater likelihood that dentists will employ assistants. The increasing elderly population and a rising demand for preventative dental care also could spur job growth.

Salary Information

In May 2013, the BLS reported that dental assistants earned an average of $35,640 per year. Wages varied according to industry and location. The highest-paying positions were with specialized hospitals, which offered a mean annual wage of $39,280. PayScale.com stated that most orthodontics assistants made between $23,812 and $45,134 per year as of September 2014, with a median salary of $30,844.

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