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Orthodontic Assistants and their Duties

Why Does the Assistant Do So Much of the Work in an Orthodontic Office?

When a patient comes in for his initial appointment to get his braces on, he’ll notice he spent more time with the orthodontic assistant than the orthodontist. So, why is that? Why doesn’t the orthodontist do all the work?

Please allow me to explain. Say you come in for a regular check-up or adjustment, the orthodontist will come over to see how things are going and where your teeth are relative to the specific plan he or she has made for your teeth. At that point, the orthodontist will advise the assistant regarding what needs to be done. But, why doesn’t the orthodontist just do it?

The assistants are qualified to perform these procedures, which are typically not too complicated.

When you get braces, the assistants clean off your teeth and get you set up to have the braces put on. They’ll put a cheek retractor in your mouth because it’s important to keep your mouth dry, so the tongue, lips and saliva don’t touch the teeth. This can affect the interface between the braces, the teeth and glue used. Then, they’ll prepare the teeth and put the braces on. Next, the orthodontist takes a look at the teeth and moves them around where he or she wants them. At that point, he or she shines the curing light on the teeth, and there’s a chemical reaction that occurs to harden the cement and fix the braces into place. The procedure will continue until all brackets are placed. Then, the orthodontist will instruct the assistant regarding which wires to use and how they should be tied in.

When you get your braces off, they assistants usually remove the colored elastic rings around the braces, remove/change the wires, and clip the wires to ensure you are comfortable. They’ll show you how to brush your teeth and use rubber bands or elastics.

The assistants are certified and well-trained, and, frankly, can perform these procedures more quickly and efficiently than the orthodontist. The orthodontist allows the assistants to do what they’ve been trained to do, and are best at doing. Most assistants have experience before they start in a dental office. They typically take a course lasting from 12-18 months, where they learn medical background. They go over different dental specialties and general dental subjects before they actually come to an orthodontic office. Now, if we were to hire an assistant with no previous experience, they would be certified as a general dental assistant and have that basic knowledge. At that point, he or she would go through a 4-6 week training period taking out wires and rubber bands and changing appliances.

Overall, it’s no different than the role of a nurse at a doctor’s office, taking your vital signs and drawing blood. The doctor could do that, but his time is typically spent doing things the nurses couldn’t do. It’s the same at an orthodontic office.

Next time you go to an orthodontist for treatment, and spend most of your time with the assistant, don’t worry. You are in capable hands. We at Beecroft Orthodontics employ some of the most well qualified staff. Set up an appointment with us if you need help with any oral issues.

Beecroft Orthodontics, 10472 Georgetown Dr. Fredericksburg,

Virginia Phone: 540-898-2200

Orthodontic Assistants and their Duties

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3 replies
  1. JB says:

    I did not see the answer, why the Orthodontist does not put the braces on, I only read that the assistants are very knowledgeable; this still does not answer the question why the Orthodontist does not do the work. Also, are braces cheaper if the assistant does the work. I too want to know what the Orthodontist is to do, since he/she does not put on the braces.

    Thank you,
    JB in Vermont,

    • orthoda says:

      The Doctor doesn’t do much of the work because that’s what assistants are for to make his or her job easier the Doctor I work for went to school 14 years she doesn’t lift a finger unless she has to, not in a bad way or anything it’s just what assistants are there for. Picture it this way the CEO of a company doesn’t do much other than tell the workers what to do and check their work that’s basically what my Doctor does ,not every doctor is like this but like I said assistants are there to make their job easier. No braces are not cheaper if the assistant does the work. Basically the doctor is the brains and assistants are the hands.

  2. Jade Brunet says:

    It is helpful to know that one should visit an orthodontist when worried about the appearance of teeth. I also appreciate the fact that assistants are certified for the job and ready to help. Another thing to look at would be to find a local orthodontist, preventing an extensive commute for frequent visits.


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