Take the First Step Toward Your Dental Career Now!

How To Become An Orthodontic Assistant

Orthodontic assistants see and take care of patients even before the orthodontist comes in. They take x-rays of patients’ mouths as well as photographs and impressions of their teeth. They prep patients for braces by polishing their teeth, help install and tighten braces, fix bands, and perform exams, leaving them ready and waiting for the orthodontist’s evaluation.

How To Become An Orthodontic Assistant

You must first have a high school diploma or GED and be at least 18. You may need to be CPR certified. Once you have these details in place, you can go to dental assisting school. Yes, that’s where orthodontic assistants start out as well.

It will take as few as 10 months to complete training. You'll learn about dental radiography, chairside assisting, and more. Generally, your school will be a combination of classroom learning, labs, and hands-on clinicals.

You can also go after an associate degree. The 2-year program includes both general education and dental assisting in the curriculum. You’ll take classes like infection control, dental science, and clinical procedures, along with core classes such as language arts and math. You can also expect to do an internship, which is part of the graduation requirement.

Once you have your diploma or associate degree, you can also become certified as an orthodontic assistant. The Dental Assisting National Board offers the Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) qualification. While this certification is not required, getting it is a smart choice. For other requirements, check with your state.

Ideal Characteristics

The ideal orthodontic assistant enjoys helping people. If you enjoy serving others, you will be more likely to give 100 percent when it comes to helping your colleagues and patients.

You should also enjoy assisting people. Many people make the mistake of becoming an orthodontic assistant and finding out they actually prefer to lead rather than assist. To be a successful orthodontic assistant, you need to be proud to be the right arm of an orthodontist, functioning as an integral part of the orthodontics team and practice.

Handling Difficult Situations

Due to the nature of the work of an orthodontic assistant, it is vital that the assistant is able to deal with difficult situations, cases, and people very well. You’ll need to know how to deal with children, who can be difficult patients. Children often get scared or restless, so you need to know how to calm them down. Special-needs patients can also be more difficult to treat if you don’t have the skill and patience. Simple characteristics can make the difference in a successful versus unsuccessful career as an orthodontic assistant. Kindness, empathy, and patience will go a long way in this profession.

How Much Do Orthodontic Assistants Make

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average pay for orthodontic assistants was $47,350 in 2023, with the top 10 percent making closer to $61,060. Salaries can vary depending on your location, and the type of office you are working in.

The job outlook for dental and orthodontic assistants from now through 2032 is expected to grow 7 percent, which is a little greater than the national average. This translates to an added 55,100 job openings for orthodontic assistants each year over the next decade.

Get Your Training

If you think becoming an orthodontic assistant is the career choice for you, it’s time to start your education. Find a school near you to begin. In the near future, you could be taking care of patients, helping them get the smile they want!

scroll to top