How to Find the Right Dental Assistant Program in Connecticut
Choosing the ideal dental assistant college in Connecticut is an essential first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to completing your due diligence than selecting the school with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the school that is closest to your home. There are other crucial factors to take into account also, such as the program’s accreditation and reputation. Your initial step is to decide which of the 2 specializations you are most interested in obtaining training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you have to commit. The most typical dental assistant program generally takes about one year to complete for a diploma or certificate. However dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to complete. Obviously with the longer training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about 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 provided.
The Role of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an integral part of any Connecticut dental practice and can perform a variety of duties. Their main job description is to furnish support to the dentists and the administrative staff. In other words, to help keep the practice working successfully. Some dental assistants elect to specialize and receive certification in a particular area, for instance periodontics. Even so most assistants perform any task that they are called upon to fulfill, for example:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Prepping patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Sterilizing and preparing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Providing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Prepping X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Ordering office and dental supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants vary by state, so check with the Connecticut dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines more than likely will have to be certified and licensed. Many dental assistants who are either required or choose to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Function of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the duties of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the most significant difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier mentioned, the dental assistant works with and in support of the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the Connecticut practice, work with the patients more on an individual basis. They are usually the first person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting room. They examine every 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 can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Instructing patients about oral hygiene
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
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 must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in addition to passing any state licensure exams. After they have fulfilled these requirements they are considered fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant and Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant programs are offered at Connecticut junior colleges in addition to technical or vocational schools. The most frequent credential acquired is the certificate, which usually takes about a year to complete. There are less Associate Degree programs offered, and they provide a more comprehensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assisting courses. Because 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 complete and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly every state. They are also offered in Connecticut vocational schools and community colleges. Whether you are pursuing training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a practical component to the training also. Many programs also sponsor internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Dental Assistant Online Training Programs
Enrolling in an online dental assistant school may be a viable option for getting your education. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be provided via your personal computer in the convenience of your Connecticut home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while going to college, online dental classes make education a lot more accessible. Many may even charge lower tuition costs than their on-campus competitors. And added expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced also. The clinical training can usually be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to receive the proper education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this mode of education, you may find that attending an dental hygienist online program is the best option for you.
Topics to Cover With Dental Assistant Programs
After you have picked the dental specialty and type of credential you want to earn, you can start the process of comparing Connecticut programs and schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students start by checking out the location and the cost of the schools. Perhaps they search for several online options as well. Although these may be significant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you need to ask of the schools you are looking at 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 School Accredited? There are many important reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant program. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a prerequisite in nearly all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the training you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Connecticut typically desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, often they are not obtainable for non-accredited Connecticut colleges.
Is The Appropriate Dental Program Available? You can elect to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make sure that the Connecticut college you decide on offers the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the alternatives are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. In order to work as a hygienist, the majority of Connecticut dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are offered. However, keep in mind that even if a college has an exceptional reputation as well as accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college 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, naturally it would not be the right school for you.
Is Sufficient Clinical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is a vital portion of any dental training program. This applies for the online school options also. Many dental colleges have associations with local dental offices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the college you enroll in offers enough clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the Connecticut program you choose offers clinical rotation in an area dental practice that specializes in dental services for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental programs you are evaluating have an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the best means to get hands-on, practical experience in a professional Connecticut dental practice. They make it easier for 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 Help Furnished? Many students that have graduated from dental assistant schools need assistance obtaining their first job. Ask if the programs you are reviewing have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Connecticut dental profession as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classrooms Small? Check with the Connecticut colleges you are reviewing how big typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally provide a more personal environment for learning where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, larger classes often are impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the school that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the degree of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental assistant training can differ in cost depending on the length of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other substantial expenses which can add up. They can include costs for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of schools, remember to add all of the costs associated with your education. The majority of schools have financial aid offices, so be sure to ask what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Connecticut.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental school, you need to make sure that the assistant program provides classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while acquiring your education and have to attend classes near your Connecticut home at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online program, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice is if you should need to miss any classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Find the Best Dental Assistant School in Connecticut
Choosing the right dental assistant course is essential if you want to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are a number of options available to obtain your education and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can obtain your formal education through dental programs at junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools normally obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants normally require approximately one year of study before they enter the job market. When earning a certificate or degree you can choose to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever credential or mode of training you decide to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the appropriate choice. And as a result, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Connecticut.