Aspiring orthodontist assistants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Most employers prefer to hire orthodontist assistants who have completed post-secondary dental assisting training, which can be obtained through certificate programs. Courses typically require one or two semesters of study.
Through orthodontist assistant certificate programs, students learn how to prepare dental tools and equipment, identify a variety of dental conditions, and provide support to patients. The curriculum also covers fundamental oral knowledge and different types of infections that can occur. Following program completion, graduates should obtain certification from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
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Dental Assisting Certificate
A dental assisting certificate is designed for dental and orthodontist assistants working under the supervision of hygienists, dentists and orthodontists. It includes courses on:
- Dental radiography
- Chair-side communications
- Dental materials
- Oral anatomy and physiology
- Infection control
- Orthodontic procedures
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
As of May 2015, dental assistants make a median annual salary of $35,980, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The employment for this career from 2014 to 2024 is expected to grow 18%, which is much faster than average, the BLS states.
Continuing Education Information
Orthodontist assistants who perform basic assisting duties are not required to be licensed. However, orthodontist assistants who perform radiological tests or similar advanced duties may need licensure in radiological technology. The licensure requirements vary widely by state.
Industry certification is available from DANB. The board recognizes orthodontist assistants who meet the requirements as certified dental assistants (CDAs). To obtain certification, assistants must have at least two years of full-time experience or completion of a CODA-approved program.
Assistants must pass a dental assisting exam administered by DANB and must meet continuing education requirements in order to maintain certification. Orthodontist assistants must also have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification in order to receive CDA credentials.
Since there are few advancement opportunities in orthodontist assisting, only a few resources for professional development are available. Orthodontist assistants seeking greater career opportunities often pursue a higher degree in order to become dental hygienists or other related dental professional. For those looking to stay in dental and orthodontist assisting, the DANB offers publications, newsletters and other career and continuing education opportunities. The organization provides licensure information for each state and helpful study guides for certification and recertification exams.
Orthodontist assisting workshops may also be available from schools with dental assisting programs or employers who offer on-the-job training programs for newly hired assistants. Workshops address issues in orthodontist assisting such as chair-side service to patients, dental preparation and sterilization and cooperation strategies aimed at making communications between orthodontists and their assistants more effective. Workshops may last several hours or may be offered for several days if part of a longer training program.
The tasks and certification/licensure requirements of an orthodontist assistant vary by state and the dental office where they are assigned. Often, they start their training through a certificate program that equips them with skills on basic examination and procedure duties.