Orthodontic Assistant Training
If you are interested in becoming an orthodontic assistant, note that the training is typically very similar to that of dental assistants. In fact, there are very few, if any, specific orthodontic assistant training programs available, which means you should find a program for dental assistants instead. The duties of both careers are similar, and what you do not learn in dental assisting school you can learn on-the-job as an orthodontic assistant. Consider your training options before you get started on this career path.
Orthodontic Assistant Training Programs
Most orthodontists require their orthodontic assistants to get a degree in dental assisting, so you should look for appropriate degree programs. As you search for the right school, keep in mind that the Commission on Dental Accreditation has approved over 250 schools that teach the skills you need to know, so to ensure you get the most thorough education, you should look for a school that is accredited by this group.
Many dental assisting programs take one year to finish, often leading to a certificate in this subject. This means that you can be ready to be competitive in the job market within a year. You may even be able to find a vocational school that teaches the skills you need to know in about six months. However, the certificate you will earn is not technically a degree, which means that you may have to return to school someday if you switch careers and need a college degree of some type.
For this reason, many people opt to get an associate’s degree from a community college, which should take about two years to complete. There are no bachelor’s degree programs for this career, but you can always get a degree in another subject, and follow it up with a certificate in dental assisting. This way, you have some options if you ever change careers.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can sometimes get a job without going to college at all. Some offices hire applicants who simply have a high school diploma, as it is possible to learn-on-the job in this career. In general, though, you stand the best chance of getting a job as an orthodontic assistant when you at least have a certificate from a dental assistant program.
What to Expect from Training
Whether you decide to get a certificate or an associate’s degree in dental assisting, you can expect to take courses focusing on the anatomy and physiology of the mouth, how to control infections, and how to communicate effectively with patients. You will also learn how to handle the tools used by dentists and orthodontists. Some colleges also offer a separate course that focuses on orthodontic assisting, which will teach you the specific skills you need to know in this career. In addition, if you get an associate’s degree, you will also need to take general courses that focus on your math and language skills.
In order to get into dental assisting programs before becoming an orthodontic assistant, you typically just need a high school diploma. Most programs also claim that students who do the best tend to have taken courses covering biology and chemistry, but this describes most high school students.
If you wish to perform certain duties as an orthodontic assistant, you may need to get some additional training even after you get a degree or certificate. For example, if you plan to perform x-rays in the office, you will likely need to take some courses and pass a test to get licensed for this duty. In order to keep the license updated, you will typically need to take continuing education courses or seminars every few years. Though this licensure is not required, it may help your resume stand out so you have a better chance of becoming an orthodontic assistant soon after starting the application process.
Even after you get a job as an orthodontic assistant, you may want to look into extra training. Taking classes and workshops every few years can keep your skill fresh, which can impress your employer while ensuring that patients get the best care possible. If you eventually find that you cannot advance any more as an orthodontic assistant, and you do not want to make a lateral move and become a dental assistant, you can always go back to school to become a dental hygienist or office manager. If you already have a degree of some sort, you can usually just get six months to a year of training to get a certificate in these positions. In this way, getting the proper education to become an orthodontic assistant offers various possibilities.