Although at first glance it may seem that an orthodontic assistant is similar to an oral surgery assistant, they are different in terms of skills, education and required duties. Oral surgery assistants, also known as a surgical technologists, work alongside oral and maxillofacial surgeons performing specialized duties. Orthodontic assistants, on the other hand, focus less on specialized tasks. Rather, they function more as a support role for the orthodontist. These differences separate the two professions in terms of salary.
Orthodontic Assistant Duties
An orthodontic assistant falls within the broader category of dental assisting. When it comes to education, most orthodontic assistants receive certification through a vocational or community college, and some receive on-the-job training. Orthodontic assistants act as a support figure for the orthodontist, responsible for patient care and chair-side assistance. Orthodontic assistants may also have administrative duties such as patient check-in, setting appointments, handling insurance paperwork, maintaining patient files, ordering supplies, answering phones and keeping the reception area tidy.
Orthodontic Assistant Salary
According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental assistants, including orthodontic assistants, earned a 2010 median wage of $33,470 per year. The job outlook for dental assistants was projected to grow by 31 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is much faster than average compared with other professions. Ongoing emphasis on oral health will continue to create demand for orthodontic assistants in the workforce.
Oral Surgery Assistant Duties
An oral surgery assistant, also referred to as a surgical technologist, performs specialized tasks to prepare patients for surgery. Although many states allow dental assistants to practice as an oral surgery assistant, most employers strongly prefer to hire candidates with certification as a surgical technologist. Surgical technologists are responsible for assisting the oral surgeon before, during and after surgery. They prepare surgery rooms, sterilize operating equipment, work with X-rays, check vital signs and maintain IV fluids during surgery. Some clerical tasks such as maintaining client charts are also common.
Oral Surgery Assistant Salary
According to the BLS, surgical technologists, including oral surgery assistants, earned a 2010 median wage of $39,920 per year. The job outlook for surgical technologists, including oral surgery assistants, is expected to grow by 19 percent from 2010 to 2012, which is a little higher than the 14 percent average for all professions. Because of the growing number of baby boomers, the job prospects for surgical technologists remains steady as older people need more operations, including oral surgery.
Ruth Altman writes on business, lifestyle and careers. She holds a Master of Arts degree from Pepperdine University in addition to a bachelor's degree from Harvard University.