Orthodontist Assistant Education Requirements and Career Info

Orthodontist assistants are specialized dental aides who work with patients receiving or wearing dental gear. They may 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 may need to be licensed depending on the requirements of their state.

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Orthodontist Assistant Education Requirements

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


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 may pursue an associate's degree in dental assisting. These 2-year degree programs incorporate general education with clinical and technical training. Core courses may 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. Course may be offered online. Students must complete 52 hours of instruction and must log 500 hours working in an orthodontic practice. Students learn how to conduct an initial exam, chart and assist with procedures.

Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB) administers the Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) credential. The exam has two parts - infection control and orthodontic assisting. There are four ways to qualify for the OA exam.

  • 1. Work experience as an OA - at least 3,500 hours. RDA (registered dental assistant), RDH (registered dental hygienist) or CDA (certified dental assistant) credential. CPR certification
  • 2. High school diploma or GED certificate. Work experience as an OA - 3,500 hours at least. CPR certification
  • 3. Complete an OA course as part of a properly accredited DA (dental assistant) program. Have the CDA credential and CPR certification.
  • 4. COA (either former or present) or a graduate from a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) or DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) program and possessing CPR certification.

There are no requirements to take the infection control exam.

Orthodontist Assistant Career Info

Orthodontist assistants help dental professionals install and check gear that straighten teeth and correct other oral problems. Specific job duties can vary by practice, but orthodontist assistants are generally responsible for prepping patients and tools for orthodontic procedures. This may 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 may also be responsible for clerical duties, such as retrieving patient records and maintaining inventory.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment rates for dental assistants are expected to increase 31% from 2010-2020 ( 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 will also spur job growth.

Salary Information

In May 2012, the BLS reported that dental assistants earned an average of $35,080 per year. Wages varied according to industry and location. The highest-paying positions were with insurance companies, which offered a mean annual wage of $41,420. The San Francisco area offered the highest average wage of all metropolitan regions at $47,280 annually. stated that most orthodontics assistants made $23,924-$45,632 per year as of November 2013.

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