Dental Assistant Training Schools in California

How to Enroll In a Dental Assistant Training Program in California

California dental assistant assisting oral surgeonPicking the right dental assistant school in California is an essential first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you must evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to completing your due diligence than picking the school with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the school that is closest to your home. There are other significant issues to take into account also, for instance the college’s accreditation and reputation. Your first step is to decide which of the 2 specializations you are most interested in obtaining training for, which may be contingent on the amount of money and time that you are willing to commit. The most common dental assistant program generally takes about 12 months to complete for a certificate or diploma. However dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to complete. Obviously with the longer training of a dental hygienist comes more cost. We will talk about all of these factors and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the dental assistant schools you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let’s explore the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options available.

The Duties of a Dental Assistant

Dental assistants are an indispensable component of any California dental office and can perform a multitude of functions. Their main job description is to furnish support to the dentists and the administrative staff. Or simply put, to help keep the practice operating successfully. Many dental assistants opt to specialize and earn certification in a specific area, such as periodontics. Even so the majority of assistants carry out any job that they are called upon to complete, such as:

  • Scheduling and verifying appointments
  • Preparing patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
  • Preparing and sterilizing instruments for dentists
  • Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
  • Providing instruments to dentists during procedures
  • Prepping X-ray machines and handling X-rays
  • Ordering dental and office supplies

Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so consult with the California dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants handling X-ray machines more than likely will have to be certified and licensed. Most dental assistants who are either required or opt to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

The Job of a Dental Hygienist

When comparing the duties of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the main difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously discussed, the dental assistant works with and assists the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the California practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are typically the initial person a patient encounters when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient’s gums and teeth and report their results to the dentists. They may also carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s duties may include:

  • Removing plaque, tartar and stains
  • Applying fluoride treatments
  • Applying sealants and polishing teeth
  • Teaching patients about oral care
  • Taking and developing X-rays
  • Removing sutures and applying fillings

To qualify for licensing in nearly all states, dental hygienists must graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination in addition to passing any state licensing exams. 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

California dental assistant and dentist with patientDental assistant programs are available at California community colleges as well as vocational or technical schools. The most frequent credential acquired is the certificate, which ordinarily takes about a year to complete. There are less Associate Degree programs available, and they furnish a more comprehensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assisting courses. As a result of the additional responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental offices are generally required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in almost every state. They are also offered in California trade schools and community colleges. Regardless of whether you are pursuing training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a clinical component to the training also. A number of programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.

Online Dental Assistant Colleges

attending dental assistant school online in CaliforniaEnrolling in an online dental assistant college may be a great alternative for getting your education. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be available by means of your desktop computer in the comfort of your California home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to school, online dental programs make education much more obtainable. Some may even have lower tuition costs than their on-campus counterparts. And added expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The clinical training can typically be completed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to obtain the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this method of learning, you may find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist college is the ideal choice for you.

Topics to Cover With Dental Assistant Schools

dental surgery in CaliforniaOnce you have picked the dental specialization and type of credential you want to earn, you can begin the process of comparing California schools and programs. As we covered at the start of this article, many potential students start by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Maybe they look for some online options as well. Although these may be important initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the programs you are comparing in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have supplied a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the right dental hygienist college for you.

Is the Dental Assistant College Accredited? There are a number of important reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental assistant program. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in virtually all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the training you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in California often desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not provided for non-accredited California programs.

Is The Proper Dental Program Offered? You can choose to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just verify that the California college you decide on offers the program that you want. For the assistant program, the options are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. In order to work as a hygienist, many California dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, bear in mind that even if a college has a good reputation and 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 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 best school for you.

Is Enough Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an important portion of any dental training program. This is true for the online school options also. Most dental programs have relationships with local dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the college you choose offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the California college you select offers clinical rotation in a local dental practice that focuses on dental services for children.

Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental schools you are considering sponsor internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the best method to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a real California dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes as well.

Is Job Placement Support Offered? Many graduating students of dental assistant programs need help landing their first job. Check if the programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the California dental profession in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.

Are the Classes Small? Ask the California programs you are reviewing how big on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate setting for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, bigger classes can be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If practical, find out if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the school that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.

What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental assistant colleges can vary in cost based on the length of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But besides the tuition there are other significant 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 analyzing the cost of colleges, remember to include all of the expenses associated with your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid departments, so be sure to find out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in California.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental school, you must verify that the assistant program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while receiving your education and must go to classes near your California home at nights or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online program, you will still have to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up practice is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family issues.

Find the Best Dental Assistant School in California

Enrolling in the right dental assistant course is important if you want to take the CDA exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are numerous options available to obtain your education and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can obtain your formal training through dental programs at junior colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools generally receive a Certificate. Dental Assistants normally require approximately 1 year of study before they enter the work force. When earning a certificate or degree you can choose to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training or credential you decide to pursue, by asking 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 begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in California.

Additional California Cities of Interest

  • Dental Assistant Training Schools near Saratoga CA 95070
  • Dental Assistant Training Schools near Menifee CA 92584
  • Dental Assistant Training Schools near Corona Del Mar CA 92625
  • Dental Assistant Training Schools near Grass Valley CA 95945
  • Dental Assistant Training Schools near Copperopolis CA 95228
  • Dental Assistant Training Schools near Petrolia CA 95558
  • Dental Assistant Training Schools near Montara CA 94037
  • Dental Assistant Training Schools near Oakhurst CA 93644
  • Dental Assistant Training Schools near Calexico CA 92231
  • Dental Assistant Training Schools near Los Altos CA 94022