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Orthodontic Assistant Career Info

Learn about the work responsibilities of an orthodontic assistant. Discover what education is required as well as salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you.

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Career Definition for an Orthodontic Assistant

An orthodontic assistant is a type of dental assistant who helps orthodontists treat patients. Orthodontists examine, identify and treat dental and oral cavity problems by designing and fabricating appliances to realign the teeth and jaws to improve appearance and function. Orthodontic assistants' duties include preparing exam rooms, prepping patients, taking x-rays, making molds of patients' mouths, cleaning and adjusting braces, making appointments and other responsibilities as needed.

Education High school diploma and completion of two-year dental assistant training program
Job Skills Communication skills, bookkeeping skills and computer skills
Median Salary (2016)* $31,725
Job Growth (2014-2024)** 18% (for dental assistants)

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

Required Education

To become an orthodontic assistant, you'll need a high school diploma and completion of an accredited dental assistant training program. Programs are offered at many community colleges and technical schools and typically take two years to complete; coursework includes insurance billing and coding, dental terminology and dental practices. Certification is offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) and is accepted or mandatory in more than 30 states.

Skills Required

Orthodontic assistants should take direction well, be able to multitask and communicate well with patients. Math and bookkeeping skills, basic office skills and computer knowledge are also helpful to succeed as an orthodontic assistant.

Employment and Economic Outlook

In the wider career field of dental assisting, which includes orthodontic assistants, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 18% employment growth from 2014 to 2024. According to PayScale.com, the median salary for orthodontic assistants was $31,725 in January 2016.

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Alternative Careers

Careers that are similar to orthodontic assisting include:

Medical Assistant

If providing similar support to a physician instead of an orthodontist sounds interesting, consider a career in medical assisting. Medical assistants perform clerical duties such as record filing and scheduling, but also help doctors with examinations, take vitals, add information to medical records, administer injections and put together lab specimens. They may also perform other tasks depending on the type of medical specialty.

To enter the field, earning a medical assisting certificate is the norm, but some may gain employment with only a high school diploma and train after they are hired. The aging population will drive the demand for medical assistants, and the BLS projects this field will grow by 23% during the 2014 to 2024 decade. These workers can expect to earn a median wage of $30,590, as shown in BLS data from May 2015.

Dental Hygienist

For those desiring more patient care responsibilities in a dental office, becoming a dental hygienist could be the right career option. Dental hygienists take x-rays, record treatment info into patient records, perform cleanings and educate patients about caring for their teeth. An associate degree in dental hygiene is generally the minimum requirement to work in this profession, and licensing of hygienists is required in all states. The job outlook is good for dental hygienists, with an expected growth of 19% between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. The BLS also reported that these dental professionals received a median annual salary of $72,330 in 2015.

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