Orthodontic assistants work in dental offices and perform a variety of functions to assist the orthodontist and help the practice function efficiently. They prepare the patient for the orthodontist by taking x-rays and impressions, performing preliminary examinations and collecting diagnostic data. They may also have other duties in the practice related to record keeping, sterilization of equipment and lab work.
Orthodontic assistants work throughout the week and sometimes on weekends, depending on the hours of their employer's practice. They are present whenever patients may be scheduled and can sometimes be required to work in the evenings to accommodate appointments. They often work 40-hour work weeks, but some assistants work part-time. (They typically do not work overtime.)
Orthodontic assistants need to move quite often during their workday. They are constantly retrieving instruments, moving equipment and operating machinery. They are required to have good manual dexterity because their job requires working in the small spaces of a patient's mouth. Their position has the potential hazard of being exposed to radiation through x-ray equipment; however following proper procedures minimizes that risk.
Orthodontic assistants work closely with the orthodontist as well as patients. They take directions from the former and anticipate their needs as well as the patients' needs. They can be responsible for maintaining the orthodontist's schedule in terms of ensuring timeliness and flow of all tasks. They also work closely with office management and support staff throughout the day.
Generally speaking, employers look for orthodontic assistants who are energetic, friendly and comfortable working in a fast-paced environment. A college degree is not typically required, although some employers may require orthodontic or dental assistant certification. Some states may require x-ray certification as well.
Orthodontic Assistant Tasks
- Assist dentist during orthodontic examinations and procedures.
- Inform patients on pre-op and post-op instructions.
- Prepare for procedures by organizing instruments and equipment.
- Document treatment by charting in patient records.
- Sterilize and disinfect orthodontic instruments and equipment.