Dental Assistants Draw a Straight Line to Orthodontics
The president of the AAO has good reasons for assistants to consider this specialtyFounded in 1900, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is the oldest and largest dental specialty organization. Inside Dental Assisting recently had the opportunity to sit down with Robert E. Varner, DMD, the current president of the AAO, to talk about how the organization’s mission and membership benefits can help dental assistants support and assist the orthodontists for whom they work.
How can the AAO help dental assistants in their jobs? Can a dental assistant join the AAO, and what benefits would they be able to enjoy with membership?
The orthodontist members of the AAO may enroll their dental assistants in the AAO’s Orthodontic Staff Club (OSC). The membership year runs from June 1 through May 31, and there are many benefits to enjoy, ranging from online CE lectures and discussion communities to our free e-newsletter. I would encourage all assistants to visit www.aaoinfo.org for a full description.
A unique and very important benefit for orthodontic assistants is the AAO’s Voluntary Certification Program®. This is a way for orthodontic assistants to demonstrate and be recognized for a measurable level of knowledge and skill because they must pass a certification test. When they do, they earn the designation Specialized Orthodontic Assistant® (SOA). In my view, Voluntary Certification enhances the credentials of orthodontic assistants, because it shows that they have a professional attitude toward their job by virtue of their willingness to study their profession and then demonstrate their knowledge through a testing regimen. I also think it helps orthodontic staff compete in the job market.
For more information on this voluntary certification, which is valid for 3 years, orthodontic assistants can review the handbook available through https://www.aaoinfo.org/education/orthodontic-staff-education/aao-voluntary-certification-program.
What specialized training does a dental assistant need to pursue a career in orthodontics?
There are few programs that specifically teach orthodontic dental assisting. The AAO endorses a Web-based training program that provides a core foundation in subjects essential to the orthodontic assistant, and is designed for self-paced home study. Trapezio, the home of the Academy of Orthodontic Assisting, offers this program, and more information can be found by visiting www.trapezio.com.
Being an orthodontic assistant can provide a great deal of personal satisfaction by helping patients improve their smiles, which improves their dental health and their self-esteem. Working in an orthodontic practice is different from working in other dental office settings. Orthodontic patients are generally in good health, and are there because they choose to be. Orthodontic treatment delivers physical and emotional benefits; it improves the patient’s function, and it improves the way the patient looks. To be part of the team that helps people improve their lives through orthodontic treatment is beyond description. Orthodontic staff have the opportunity to develop relationships with patients because they see them regularly throughout their treatment, and will celebrate with them when treatment is complete and the patient has a healthy and beautiful smile.