How to Find the Right Dental Assistant Program in Colorado
Picking the ideal dental assistant college in Colorado is an important initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than selecting the training with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your home. There are other significant issues to consider also, for instance the program’s reputation and accreditation. Your initial step is to decide which of the 2 specialties you are most interested in receiving training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you have to invest. The most common dental assistant program usually 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 two to three years to complete. Obviously with the longer training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these factors and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are looking at later in this article. But first, let’s explore the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options offered.
The Role of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an indispensable part of any Colorado dental office and can perform a variety of tasks. Their primary job description is to provide support to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice operating efficiently. A number of dental assistants opt to specialize and earn certification in a particular area, for example periodontics. Even so the majority of assistants perform any job that they are called upon to fulfill, such as:
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Readying patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
- Using suction equipment to clear patients’ mouths
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Prepping 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 Colorado dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants handling X-ray machines most likely will need to be certified and licensed. Most dental assistants who are either required or elect 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 role of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the biggest difference is probably that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously discussed, the dental assistant works with and in support of the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the Colorado practice, work with the patients more on an individual basis. They are often the initial person a patient encounters when called from the waiting area. They examine every patient’s gums and teeth and present their findings to the dentists. They may also carry out basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s duties may include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Teaching patients regarding oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
In order to be licensed in almost 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 as well as any state licensure examinations. Once they have completed these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant programs are available at Colorado junior colleges along with technical or vocational schools. The most common credential acquired is the certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs available, and they provide a more comprehensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant classes. Because of the added responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental practices are normally required to hold 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 almost every state. They are also offered in Colorado community colleges and technical schools. Whether you are pursuing training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical aspect to the training also. Some programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Assistant Training Programs
Choosing an online dental assistant program may be a viable alternative for receiving your education. Just remember that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be accessible by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your Colorado home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while attending college, online dental programs make education far more obtainable. Many may even have lower tuition costs than their traditional counterparts. And supplementary expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened as well. The practical training can often be performed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to get the appropriate education is provided. If you have the discipline for this mode of learning, you may find that attending an dental hygienist online school is the ideal option for you.
Subjects to Cover With Dental Assistant Schools
Once you have picked the dental specialization and kind of credential you would like to attain, you can start the procedure of comparing Colorado schools and programs. As we covered at the start of this article, a number of potential students begin by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Possibly they search for some online options also. Although these may be important initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you need to address to the schools you are looking at in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental Assistant School Accredited? There are several valid reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental assistant college. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the education you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Colorado frequently prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not obtainable for non-accredited Colorado programs.
Is The Right Dental Program Offered? You can choose to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just confirm that the Colorado school you decide on has the program that you want. For the assistant program, the choices are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. In order to have a career as a hygienist, many Colorado dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not common, are available. However, keep in mind that even if a school has a good reputation and accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited school may have a strong accredited dental hygienist program, but might have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are solely interested in a dental assistant degree, naturally it would not be the ideal school for you.
Is Enough Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an important portion of every dental training program. This holds true for the online college options also. A number of dental programs have relationships with regional dental offices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the program you choose provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the Colorado college you choose offers clinical rotation in a local dental office that focuses on dental care for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental colleges you are considering have internship programs. Internships are probably the most effective way to receive hands-on, practical experience in a professional Colorado dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students create professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Help Offered? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant schools require assistance obtaining their first job. Ask if the programs you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Colorado dental community in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classrooms Smaller? Find out from the Colorado programs you are interested in how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally provide a more personal environment for training where students have greater access to the instructors. Conversely, larger classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the school that you are most interested in so that you can experience first hand the amount of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.
What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental assistant programs can differ in cost based on the length of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also come into play. 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 materials, equipment and supplies. So when comparing the cost of schools, don’t forget to include all of the expenses related to your education. Most colleges have financial assistance offices, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Colorado.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental college, you need to confirm that the assistant program furnishes classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while acquiring your education and have to go to classes near your Colorado home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you select an online college, you will still have to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice is if you should need to miss any classes because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Find the Right Dental Assistant College in Colorado
Choosing the right dental assistant course is imperative if you want to take the CDA examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are numerous options offered to acquire your education and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can acquire your formal training through dental programs at community colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these programs usually obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants typically require about 1 year of study prior to entering the work force. When earning a certificate or degree you can elect to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever credential or mode of training you decide to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the ideal choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Colorado.