Orthodontic assistants work in dental offices alongside orthodontists, performing any tasks that may be required to assist the orthodontist in his work on a patient. Additional orthodontic assistant duties can include preparing the patient for an exam or procedure; filing and maintaining patient records; and preparing instruments for the orthodontist. Some assistants also are trained to perform certain types of testing, such as taking patient X-rays, and to administer local anesthesia.
In general, an orthodontic assistant will greet patients as they are welcomed into the facility, pull the patients' charts for the orthodontist to review, and assist the doctor in preparing the patient for a procedure. A professional in this position is generally responsible for making a patient feel comfortable as well, and will answer his questions and concerns. The assistant will commonly be on-hand during the procedure to help the orthodontist with instruments, provide necessary suction, and anything else the orthodontist might require for the procedure. Depending on the orthodontic office and the level of education and training of the assistant, the position job duties may also include taking patient X-rays and administering certain types of anesthetic.
Duties of an orthodontic assistant may also include preparing instruments for the orthodontist by using an autoclave to sterilize them before use. Additionally, some orthodontic assistant duties include organizing, cleaning and sorting the instruments. Some supplies are one-use only, such as latex gloves and rubber bands for braces, so the assistant may need to review the facility's inventory to ensure that they are well-stocked and order more if necessary. An assistant also makes sure that the environment is clean and sanitized thoroughly before the orthodontist sees patients.
An orthodontic assistant may also be expected to maintain patient files or records and organize them accordingly. Under this job duty, the assistant pulls the records before the treatment is performed, reviews the notations that are in the file, and adds any other pertinent information that may be required. The assistant may also be required to ensure that all of the patients' records are categorized in the correct order according to the filing system at his particular facility. In some cases, an orthodontic assistant job may include billing or other insurance-related tasks.
To become an orthodontic assistant, one must typically pursue some level of higher education beyond a high school diploma or its equivalent. Community colleges often offer dental assisting programs that end in certificates, but it may be possible to find an orthodontist who will provide on-the-job training. Additionally, some jurisdictions will require orthodontic assistants to be licensed.