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How Do I Become an Orthodontic Assistant?

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  • Written By: T. L. Childree
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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An orthodontic assistant works closely with an orthodontist to help patients achieve proper dental alignment. In order to become an orthodontic assistant, you must first obtain a high school diploma or equivalent. You will probably need to earn an associate’s degree in dental assisting as well. After completing your formal education, you must also gain some practical work experience to become an orthodontic assistant. You may also want to become professionally certified after you have worked in this field for a period of time.

The practice of orthodontics is a specialized field of dentistry devoted exclusively to tooth and jaw alignment issues. Orthodontic patients are typically children who require long-term dental care to straighten their teeth. Orthodontic assistants typically work alongside an orthodontist during dental alignment procedures. They perform duties such as making dental impressions, adjusting braces, and taking X-rays. Orthodontic assistants may also clean and set up equipment, prepare patients for dental procedures, or obtain dental records.

This dental assistant specialty is largely acquired through on-the-job training, but a certain amount of formal education is also required. To become an orthodontic assistant, you must have either a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma. It may be helpful to complete courses in health science and biology during high school. Many employers also require you to earn an associate’s degree in dental assisting before beginning any hands-on training.

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An Associate of Applied Science in Dental Assisting degree can be obtained from a two-year community college, trade school, or technical institute. This degree is usually sufficient to begin receiving the on-the-job training needed to become an orthodontic assistant. Courses in radiology, oral anatomy, infection prevention, and dental materials are typically taught during this program. Dental procedures such as creating dental impressions, polishing teeth, and rubber dam building are also taught. Internships are available through some programs to provide students with relevant work experience.

In addition to a college degree, a certain amount of practical work experience must be acquired before you can become an orthodontic assistant. Employers typically require you to complete extensive on-the-job training before working in this specialized field. The field of orthodontics requires precision skills that must be developed over time. Some orthodontists prefer to teach orthodontic assistants important people skills first to help put patients at ease during delicate dental procedures. Thus, you may begin your career in a front office or ordinary dental assistant capacity and gradually progress into an orthodontics specialty.

After you have received a sufficient amount of on-the-job training, you may also want to pursue professional certification in this field. A professional certification may significantly increase your income and employment opportunities. In the U.S., the Dental Assisting National Board issues professional certifications for orthodontic assistants. Applicants must possess a high school diploma and sufficient work experience or a college degree in this field. They must also take and pass two separate exams to be certified as an orthodontic assistant.

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