Orthodontist Vs. Dental Assistant: What’s The Difference?
While both these positions assist in the business of the teeth, mouth, and gums, the similarities stop past that:
- Orthodontist assistants work closely with orthodontists, who straighten teeth and make other adjustments to the jaw and bite.
- Dental assistants work directly at the side of dentists, as they examine patients and perform procedures.
What Do Orthodontist Assistants Do?
Orthodontist assistants help dental professionals install and check devices that straighten teeth and correct other oral problems. They perform many duties including:
- preparing patients and supplies for orthodontic procedures
- sterilizing and disinfecting orthodontic instruments and equipment
- making minor adjustments to dental gear
- taking x-rays or impressions of patients' mouths
- removing stitches
- assisting orthodontists in dental emergencies
While state restrictions and your own level of experience will come into play, in some offices, you may also learn lab work, specifically pouring up and trimming patient molds. You’re often responsible for office tasks, such as maintaining patient records, handling inventory, and payment/billing responsibilities.
How To Become An Orthodontist Assistant
To work as an orthodontist assistant, you will need:
- a high school diploma or GED
- a CPR certificate
- training that results in a certificate in dental or orthodontic assisting through an accredited school or an associate degree in dental assisting
- to pass a dental certification exam that includes a written and hands-on evaluation
Dental assisting certificate programs can be completed in as few as 10 months and will prepare you for entry-level assisting positions alongside dentists. These programs generally focus on the technical aspects of the occupation, including dental radiography, chairside assisting, and dental materials. You’ll take laboratory and clinical classes.
Associate degrees can be obtained at community colleges and vocational schools. These degrees take approximately two years to complete.
Additional licensing and/or certification is required in some states. Certification is offered by the DANB—the Dental Assisting National Board. DANB awards the Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) credential to applicants who pass infection control and orthodontic assisting exams. Orthodontic assistants can qualify for certification through a combination of education, work experience, and/or other credentials, such as RDA (registered dental assistant), RDH (registered dental hygienist), or CDA (certified dental assistant).
How Much Do Orthodontist And Dental Assistants Make?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics makes no distinction between dental and orthodontic assistants. According to BLS, in 2021, the average annual wage for dental and orthodontic assistants was $42,510.
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