Why Dental Assistants Should Consider Going into Orthodontics

Dental assistant

Dental assistants usually love their job. They know what an important difference they make in the health of their patients, as well as how much their work positively affects the dentists who hire them. Some dental assistants specialize in a particular aspect of dentistry, such as orthodontics. This in-demand field helps align patients’ teeth and jaws for better health and wider smiles. Dental assistants who want to increase their skill sets, expand their knowledge base, and develop a varied base of experience in dentistry should consider going into orthodontics.

In Oak Lawn, Illinois, and the greater Chicago area, you can get a start on a career as an orthodontic dental assistant with the Dental Assisting Certificate Program at Northwestern College. Here, we discuss why current and future dental assistants should consider the orthodontics path.

What Sets Orthodontic Assistants Apart?

On the face of it, dental assistants perform most of the same tasks as orthodontic assistants. They assist a dentist with patients before, during, and after procedures. While helping patients relax and sit comfortably, dental assistants hand dentists the tools and other materials needed during procedures. They check up on patients after procedures to answer questions and make sure that recovery is going well. Equipment is set up and the dental assistant makes sure that all is sterilized, for the safety of both the dental team and the patient.

A difference between general dentistry and orthodontics is the focus of care. Orthodontists are concerned with the structure of the teeth and jaws. These specialists help both young and older patients by straightening teeth. With teeth that are in better alignment, it’s easier to eat all the foods needed for proper nutrition, and to clean the teeth thoroughly. To accomplish this, orthodontists use corrective devices, such as braces and retainers. Dental assistants who enjoy learning about the structure and development of teeth will find this aspect of dentistry both exciting and fulfilling. Likewise, if the dental assistant is handy with mechanics, they will enjoy becoming an orthodontic dental assistant.

Other tasks with particular significance for orthodontic dental assistants include:

  • Making adjustments to corrective gear, such as tightening, refitting, and replacing parts
  • Taking impressions of teeth, which utilizes a thorough knowledge of orthodontic procedures to better help with planning a course of action
  • Performing X-rays and imaging tests, aiding in visualization for both procedures and outcomes
  • Updating patient records with detailed recordkeeping that charts the progress of any modifications to alignment in jaw, teeth, or bite

How to Move from Dental Assistant to Orthodontics

Dental assistants learn both in the classroom and through hands-on experience. Pay close attention when learning about the structure of teeth and jaw development during the certificate program. Devote extra study time to coursework on gum disease, sleep apnea, and misaligned bites. These are problems that bring patients to the orthodontist’s chair. During the educational process, dental assistant trainees who are interested can ask to receive hands-on training with an orthodontist. Advanced study and work experience may be required for any specialized post-graduate certificate programs.

Certified dental assistants are in high demand and can explore a variety of jobs within the dental industry, including orthodontic dental assisting. A program of study also can help create a network of contacts, enabling assistants to find out about job opportunities, advanced training programs, and internship or moonlighting positions.

Explore a Career as an Orthodontic Dental Assistant

Dental assistants who are considering going into orthodontics can focus on this aspect of dentistry within a program of study, and by gaining work experience with an orthodontist. Learn more at Northwestern College in Oak Lawn, IL, serving the greater Chicago area.