How to Pick a Dental Assistant School in Arizona
Picking the ideal dental assistant program in Arizona is an important first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is much more to doing your due diligence than choosing the college with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the school that is nearest to your residence. There are other crucial issues to consider as well, for instance the program’s reputation and accreditation. Your initial step is to decide which of the 2 specializations you are most interested in receiving training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you have to commit. The most common dental assistant program normally takes about 1 year to complete for a diploma or certificate. On the other hand dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to finish. Obviously with the more extensive training of a dental hygienist comes more cost. We will discuss all of these issues and additional questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are looking at later in this article. But first, let’s review the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options provided.
The Role of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an important component of any Arizona dental practice and can carry out a myriad of duties. Their fundamental job description is to furnish assistance to the dentists and the administrative staff. Or simply put, to help keep the practice operating successfully. Many dental assistants choose to specialize and obtain certification in a particular area, for instance periodontics. However the majority of assistants perform any task that they are asked to complete, for example:
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Readying patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Giving instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying X-ray machines and handling X-rays
- Purchasing office and dental supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so consult with the Arizona dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines most likely will have to be certified and licensed. Most dental assistants who are either required or decide to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Job of a Dental Hygienist
When comparing the job of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the main difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier discussed, the dental assistant works with and in support of the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the Arizona practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently the initial person a patient sees when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient’s gums and teeth and report their findings to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s duties can include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Instructing patients regarding oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
To qualify for licensing in nearly all states, dental hygienists must have graduated from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in addition to passing any state licensure examinations. When they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant and Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant programs are available at Arizona junior colleges in addition to trade or vocational schools. The most frequent credential acquired is the certificate, which usually takes about 1 year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs available, and they provide a more expansive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assisting courses. As a result of the added responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental practices are usually required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from two to as long as three years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly every state. They are also offered in Arizona community colleges and technical schools. Whether you are interested in training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical aspect to the training as well. Many programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Assistant Training Programs
Selecting an online dental assistant college may be a viable option for getting your training. Just remember that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided via your personal computer in the comfort of your Arizona home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while attending college, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Many may even offer lower tuition fees than their on-campus competitors. And supplementary expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The practical training can usually be completed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything needed to obtain the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this mode of learning, you might find that attending an online dental hygienist school is the right option for you.
Topics to Ask Dental Assistant Programs
After you have decided on the dental specialty and type of credential you would like to earn, you can begin the procedure of comparing Arizona schools and programs. As we discussed at the start of this article, a number of potential students start by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Perhaps they search for some online options as well. Even though these may be relevant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you need to ask of the colleges you are looking at in order to arrive at an informed decision. To start that process, we have provided a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental Assistant Program Accredited? There are many good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental assistant college. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant examination, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the education you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Arizona typically desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not provided for non-accredited Arizona programs.
Is The Right Dental Program Offered? You can choose to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just make sure that the Arizona college you select offers the program that you want. For the assistant program, the choices are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. In order to work as a hygienist, a large number of Arizona dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not common, are offered. However, bear in mind that just because a school has an excellent reputation and accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a strong accredited dental hygienist program, but may have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are just interested in a dental assistant degree, clearly it would not be the right school for you.
Is Adequate Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a necessary component of any dental training program. This is true for the online college options as well. Many dental colleges have associations with regional dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the college you select offers enough clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the Arizona school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a regional dental practice that specializes in dental care for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental schools you are looking at sponsor an internship program. Internships are probably the ideal way to get hands-on, clinical experience in a real Arizona dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students develop working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Most graduating students of dental assistant programs require assistance obtaining their first job. Find out if the schools you are considering have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Arizona dental community as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.
Are Classes Small? Ask the Arizona programs you are reviewing how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes tend to provide a more intimate atmosphere for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, larger classes can be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If practical, ask if you can attend a few classes at the school that you are leaning toward in order to experience first hand the degree of interaction between instructors and students before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental assistant colleges can fluctuate in cost based on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools and if they are private or public also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of programs, remember to add all of the expenses associated with your education. The majority of schools have financial aid departments, so be sure to check out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Arizona.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental school, you must verify that the assistant program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while receiving your education and have to attend classes near your Arizona home at nights or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online program, you will still have to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up policy is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Ideal Dental Assistant Program in Arizona
Picking the ideal dental assistant course is essential if you want to take the CDA exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are many alternatives offered to acquire your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can receive your formal education through dental programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools typically earn a Certificate. Dental Assistants usually require roughly one year of study before they enter the work force. When pursuing a certificate or degree you can elect to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever credential or mode of training you elect to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the right choice. And as a result, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Arizona.