7 Steps for Becoming an Orthodontic Assistant 

Are you interested in shifting careers to become an orthodontic assistant or wondering how long it takes to become an orthodontic assistant? Whatever your questions are, Howard Healthcare Academy has the answers. Understanding the steps to become an orthodontic assistant will prepare you for achieving your career goal. In addition to thinking about what orthodontic assistant school you should enroll in and what orthodontic assistant tasks you’re interested in, there are several steps to take that will ensure you are equipped to make your dream of becoming an orthodontic assistant come true.

At Howard Healthcare Academy, we want to help you become an orthodontic assistant as quickly as possible. In this post, we review important information about the profession, including what an orthodontic assistant does and the general requirements candidates will need to meet. Finally, we outline seven steps detailing how to become an orthodontic assistant.

What Do Orthodontist Assistants Do?

Before you start working towards your new career, you should know the main purpose of an orthodontic assistant and the general job duties. Many people who visit the orthodontist’s office are apprehensive about being there because the procedures are sometimes painful or uncomfortable. That is why having friendly and supportive staff on hand is key to making an orthodontist visit experience a good one.

An orthodontist assistant is key to putting a patient’s mind at ease and creating a comfortable environment for them. To be a successful orthodontist assistant, you need good interpersonal communication skills to explain procedures, educate patients, and collaborate with the orthodontist.

An orthodontic assistant should be a friendly and familiar face that greets children and adults who may be nervous or scared about impending orthodontic treatment, which can oftentimes be uncomfortable. An orthodontist assistant provides support services to orthodontists, performing duties like the following:

  • Prepare tools for the orthodontist
  • Talk to patients about procedures
  • Perform cleaning duties 
  • Take X-rays of patients’ teeth
  • Create molds of patients’ teeth for customized retainers and mouth guards
  • Remove or replace orthodontic devices like elastic bands, springs, and wires
  • Clean and tighten braces
  • Educate patients on proper hygiene and after-care for orthodontic devices
  • Help orthodontist perform procedures 
  • Prep and sterilize instruments
  • Create and maintain patient records
  • Order supplies, answer phones, and schedule appointments

Review Your State Requirements 

To begin a career as an orthodontist assistant, you’ll first need to review your state’s requirements. State requirements to work as an orthodontic assistant can vary, but many of them are the same across the board. The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) tracks state requirements, so you can research, by state, the criteria for becoming an orthodontic assistant.

To become an orthodontic assistant in the U.S., you must complete a one-year dental assisting certificate or a two-year associate’s degree program in orthodontics assisting.

Earn Your High School Diploma 

You need a high school diploma or GED and CPR certification to enter a dental assisting training program. In addition to classroom instruction, you will receive hands-on practical experience to learn the technical skills of the job from a licensed orthodontist.

Even though some orthodontic assistants have a college degree, it’s possible to become one with only a high school degree or GED. Many orthodontic assistant jobs require experience in other roles, such as dental assistant. 

If you haven’t already, earn your high school diploma or GED, and you can move one step closer to enrolling in an orthodontic assistant school.

Find the Right Orthodontic Assistant School 

A specialized orthodontic assistant schooling is less common than dental associate schools, but there are many dental assisting and associate programs nationwide that offer orthodontics classes. Be sure to research your options. A program should feature a comprehensive curriculum, expert instructors, and convenient class schedules – all of which can help you pursue your goal of becoming an orthodontic assistant.

Sign Up for Orthodontics Classes 

Complete the orthodontic assistant schooling, dental assisting school, or dental associate program enrollment process. If you have concerns or questions as you enroll, reach out for assistance. School or program administrators are happy to help you in any way possible. If you contact these administrators, you can get the help you need to streamline your enrollment in orthodontics classes.

Complete Your Orthodontics Classes 

This is the bulk of the process! Study hard, take advantage of the resources your program offers its students, and get in as much practice time as possible. Orthodontics classes provide students with insights into bonding agents, tooth appliances, and the use of archwires. Meanwhile, students will learn about oral anatomy, infection control and related topics as well.

Find a Job 

Before you can search for orthodontic assistant jobs, many states require you work for a period of time (usually around six months) as a dental assistant. Once you complete your educational program, start searching for your first job as a dental assistant. This will allow you to build work experience and, importantly, is a step on the way to obtaining your orthodontic assistant permit (OAP). It also enables you to earn money as you work toward achieving your goal of becoming an orthodontic assistant.

Earn a Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) Designation 

DANB offers a Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) Designation that validates your expertise in the field. The COA assessment includes two components: an orthodontic assisting exam and an infection control test. The orthodontic assisting exam consists of 210 multiple-choice questions; comparatively, the infection control test includes 100 multiple-choice questions. The COA designation is not a requirement to work as an orthodontic assistant in most states. However, earning the designation may help you distinguish yourself from other candidates when you apply for orthodontic assistant jobs. It could also help increase your earning potential.

What Skills Do You Need to Thrive as an Orthodontic Assistant? 

With these seven steps in mind, you can start the journey to becoming an orthodontic assistant feeling prepared. Along the way, you should be building skills in your specialty area that will help you succeed:

  • Dexterity: Orthodontic assistants need to be good with their hands, as much of the job requires using specialized dental tools and instruments on difficult cases.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Orthodontic assistants need to assist patients dealing with severe pain or stress, as well as follow instructions provided by a colleague or orthodontist.
  • Organizational Skills: Orthodontic assistants must be organized, reliable, and on top of things.

Howard Healthcare Academy Orthodontist Assistant Program

Howard Healthcare Academy offers an 84-hour Orthodontic Assistant course covering all the basics you need to know to get started. Howard Healthcare Academy offers an orthodontic assistant permit (OAP) course for people interested in orthodontic assistant jobs. Our OAP course is ideal for individuals and dental assistants who want to become orthodontic assistants, and its benefits include:

  • Experienced Instructors: Our instructors are dental industry professionals who share their real-world insights with students and explain what it takes to perform the everyday duties of an orthodontic assistant.
  • In-Depth Training: We provide hands-on and classroom lessons to help students prepare for different orthodontic assistant scenarios.
  • Flexible Schedules: Our OAP class is offered on weekends only, so you can enroll in a class that accommodates your schedule.

The Howard Healthcare Academy OAP course offers a terrific option for individuals who want to thrive as orthodontic assistants. To learn more about our OAP class, please call us today at (619) ACADEMY (619-222-3369) or email us at info@howardacademy.edu.

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