Orthodontics is one of the fastest growing fields in the healthcare industry. Therefore, becoming an orthodontic assistant could be an excellent career choice for people interested in a healthcare job in the dentistry field.
The salary is competitive, the training and education are relatively short, and the career outlook is excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected dental and orthodontic assistant careers to grow by a whopping 31 percent over the next six years alone. If you are passionate about helping others and are interested in learning more about jaw alignment and the positioning of teeth, this could be the perfect health career for you.
More than 80% of orthodontic assistants are female even though this is not a job requirement. A possible reason for this could be that many women have smaller hands which is essential when are working in tiny spaces such as someone’s mouth. Becoming an orthodontic assistant could be an excellent health career choice for many men as well. Most orthodontists today are so up to date and current in high technology that they are beginning to try new things and become more open-minded, no longer bending to stereotypes. This alone makes them enjoyable to work for in a fun and team-oriented work environment.
Duties and Responsibilities
The duties of an orthodontic assistant are very different than that of a dental assistant. For example, unlike dental assistants, orthodontic assistants spend more time working individually with a patient than they do actually assisting the orthodontist. The main responsibility of a dental assistant is to assist the dentist during procedures, suction, and pass instruments. Orthodontic assistants are a lot more independent with the freedom and flexibility to use their own judgment, in most cases.
While good communication and listening skills are helpful, finger dexterity, good hand to eye coordination, attention to detail and the ability to work independently are skills that a good orthodontic assistant should possess as well. The duties and responsibilities of an orthodontic assistant often vary from state to state however, these are the most common tasks: taking impressions in patients' mouths, taking X-rays, changing out wires and brackets, writing up or typing up patient charts, giving oral hygiene instructions and sterilizing instruments and equipment. Many orthodontic assistants learn lab work as well. Pouring up and trimming patient molds are common practice by the assistants in an orthodontic office.
Education and Training
The first step in becoming an orthodontic assistant is to find out the requirements of your state. Some states require a formal education and/or certificate program which can take one to two years to complete, depending upon the state. Other states accept on-the-job training through an apprenticeship program. Many orthodontists are willing to train employees who are truly passionate about learning this field.
Salary and Hours
The salary of orthodontic assistants are very competitive and the hours are usually favorable as well. Most orthodontists only work an average of four days a week. This is an important factor to take into consideration regarding your salary requirements. Instead of a typical 40-hour work week, you might only work an average of thirty hours per week. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for dental and orthodontic assistants is estimated to be $11.10 to $22.80 per hour.
The field of orthodontics is growing at more than double the rate of all occupations in all industries. This increase leads to more job openings as well as long-term job security. Most orthodontists stay up to date with the latest technologies and techniques through continuing education. This means more training and experience for the assistants as well. If this is a health career that interests you, take the steps necessary to get started in the fun and rewarding health career of orthodontic assisting.
If you are interested in orthodontic assisting, the following careers may also be of interest:
- Dentistry careers
- Dental hygienist
- Dental assistant