How to Select a Dental Assistant College in Arkansas
Picking the ideal dental assistant training in Arkansas is an essential initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you must examine and compare your school options. There is much more to performing your due diligence than selecting the training with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your residence. There are other important issues to take into account as well, such as the school’s reputation and accreditation. Your initial step is to decide which of the two specialties you are most interested in getting training for, which may depend on the amount of money and time that you have to commit. The most common dental assistant program generally takes about 12 months to complete for a diploma or certificate. On the other hand dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to accomplish. Obviously with the longer training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these concerns and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental assistant schools you are looking at later in this article. But first, let’s explore the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options offered.
The Role of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an indispensable part of any Arkansas dental office and can undertake a myriad of tasks. Their main job description is to give assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. Or simply put, to help keep the practice running efficiently. Many dental assistants choose to specialize and acquire certification in a particular area, for example orthodontics. Even so the majority of assistants carry out any task that they are asked to fulfill, such as:
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Preparing and sterilizing instruments for dentists
- Using suction equipment to clear patients’ mouths
- Giving instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Ordering office and dental supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so consult with the Arkansas dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants working with X-ray machines most likely will have to be licensed and certified. Most dental assistants who are either required or choose to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Role of a Dental Hygienist
When comparing the job of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the main difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously mentioned, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the Arkansas practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are often the first person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient’s gums and teeth and report their findings to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s duties can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Teaching patients regarding oral hygiene
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
In order to be licensed in nearly all states, dental hygienists must graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination as well as any state licensure exams. After they have fulfilled these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant and Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant programs are available at Arkansas community colleges as well as trade or vocational schools. The most typical credential earned is the certificate, which generally takes about one year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they provide a more extensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assisting classes. As a result of the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental offices are usually required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in virtually every state. They are also offered in Arkansas community colleges and technical schools. Regardless of 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 offer internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Assistant Training Programs
Choosing an online dental assistant program can be a viable option for receiving your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided via your desktop computer in the convenience of your Arkansas home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to college, online dental programs make education much more obtainable. Some may even charge lower tuition costs than their traditional competitors. And supplementary expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened also. The clinical training can typically be performed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to obtain the proper education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this style of learning, you might find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online school is the right option for you.
Topics to Ask Dental Assistant Programs
When you have picked the dental specialty and kind of credential you would like to earn, you can begin the process of comparing Arkansas schools and programs. As we covered at the start of this article, many potential students begin by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Possibly they look for several online options also. Although these may be relevant initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you should ask of the colleges you are looking at in order to arrive at an informed decision. To start that process, we have included a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the ideal dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant College Accredited? There are many valid reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental assistant school. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the instruction you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Arkansas frequently prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not available for non-accredited Arkansas programs.
Is The Correct Dental Program Offered? You can choose to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just verify that the Arkansas college you choose has the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the options are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. In order to earn a living as a hygienist, the majority of Arkansas dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not common, are available. However, keep in mind that even if a school has an exceptional reputation as well as accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited school may have a solid accredited dental hygienist program, but could have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are primarily interested in a dental assistant degree, obviously it would not be the right college for you.
Is Sufficient Clinical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is an important part of every dental training program. This holds true for the online college options as well. Most dental colleges have associations with regional dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the program you enroll in offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently want to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the Arkansas program you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a regional dental practice that focuses on dental services for children.
Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental programs you are evaluating sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective method to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a professional Arkansas dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students build professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they look good on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant programs need help getting their first job. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Arkansas dental profession as well as large networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classes Small? Check with the Arkansas programs you are reviewing how big on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to offer a more personal setting for training where students have increased access to the instructors. Conversely, larger classes can be impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If practical, find out if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the college that you are most interested in so that you can experience first hand the degree of interaction between instructors and students before enrolling.
What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental assistant training can fluctuate in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools and whether they are private or public also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial expenses which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when examining the cost of programs, don’t forget to include all of the costs related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid offices, so be sure to check out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Arkansas.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental college, you need to confirm that the assistant program furnishes classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while getting your education and need to go to classes near your Arkansas home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you select an online school, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up procedure is if you should need to miss any classes due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Pick the Ideal Dental Assistant Program in Arkansas
Choosing the ideal dental assistant course is imperative if you want to take the CDA examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are numerous alternatives available to receive your training and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can obtain your formal education through dental programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools usually obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants generally require roughly 1 year of study prior to entering 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 choose to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the right choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Arkansas.