How to Enroll In a Dental Assistant Training Program in District of Columbia
Choosing the ideal dental assistant college in District of Columbia is an important initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you must evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than choosing the college with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your residence. There are other crucial issues to take into account also, including the college’s reputation and accreditation. Your first step is to decide which of the 2 specialties you are most interested in getting training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you are willing to invest. The most typical dental assistant program normally takes about 1 year to finish for a diploma or certificate. Meanwhile dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to accomplish. Obviously with the prolonged training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will cover all of these issues and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are assessing later in this article. But first, let’s explore the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options available.
The Function of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an indispensable part of any District of Columbia dental practice and can undertake a multitude of duties. Their fundamental job description is to give support to the admin staff and the dentists. Or simply put, to help keep the practice operating efficiently. A number of dental assistants elect to specialize and earn certification in a specific area, for example periodontics. However the majority of assistants carry out any task that they are called upon to complete, such as:
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Readying patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Sterilizing and preparing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Ordering dental and office supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants differ by state, so check with the District of Columbia dental board for your state’s policies. Assistants working with X-ray machines more than likely will need to be licensed and certified. Most 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 Job of a Dental Hygienist
When comparing the role of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the main difference is probably that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier mentioned, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also assisting the District of Columbia practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are usually the initial person a patient encounters when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s gums and teeth and present their results to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s duties can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Instructing patients regarding oral hygiene
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
In order to be licensed in almost 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. Once 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 Training Options
Dental assistant programs are available at District of Columbia junior colleges as well as technical or vocational schools. The most common credential earned is the certificate, which usually takes about a year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs available, and they furnish a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant classes. As a result of the increased responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental practices are generally required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can take anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in almost every state. They are also offered in District of Columbia vocational schools and community colleges. Regardless of whether you are interested in training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical component to the training as well. Some programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Assistant Classes
Enrolling in an online dental assistant school might be a good alternative for getting your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be available via your personal computer in the convenience of your District of Columbia home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to college, online dental programs make education far more accessible. Some may even charge lower tuition costs than their on-campus competitors. And additional expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened as well. The clinical training can often be performed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything needed to receive the appropriate education is provided. If you have the dedication for this method of learning, you might find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online college is the best option for you.
What to Cover With Dental Assistant Schools
Once you have picked the dental specialization and kind of credential you would like to attain, you can begin the process of comparing District of Columbia programs and schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many potential students start by looking at the cost and the location of the schools. Maybe they search for some online options as well. Although these are relevant initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you should address to the colleges you are comparing in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have supplied a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of important reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant program. If you are intending to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. In order 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 training you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in District of Columbia frequently desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, often they are not provided for non-accredited District of Columbia colleges.
Is The Correct Dental Program Offered? You can choose to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just confirm that the District of Columbia school you select offers the program that you want. For the assistant program, the options are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. If you want to earn a living as a hygienist, most District of Columbia dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, bear 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 could 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 college for you.
Is Sufficient Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is an essential component of any dental training program. This holds true for the online school options also. Most dental programs have relationships with regional dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only important that the school you select provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately want to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the District of Columbia school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in an area dental office that focuses on dental treatment for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental colleges you are exploring have internship programs. Internships are probably the best way to get hands-on, practical experience in a professional District of Columbia 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 are attractive on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant colleges require assistance getting their first job. Ask if the programs you are reviewing have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the District of Columbia dental profession in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classrooms Smaller? Find out from the District of Columbia programs you are evaluating how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally provide a more intimate atmosphere for training where students have increased access to the teachers. Conversely, bigger classes often are impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If practical, find out if you can attend a few classes at the school that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the level of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.
What is the Overall Cost of the Program? Dental assistant programs can vary in cost depending on the duration of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the colleges and if they are private or public also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other significant costs 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 comparing the cost of colleges, remember to include all of the expenses associated with your education. Most schools have financial aid offices, so be sure to ask what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in District of Columbia.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental school, you need to verify that the assistant program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while getting your education and must attend classes near your District of Columbia home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, you will still need to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should need to miss any classes due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Pick the Best Dental Assistant Program in District of Columbia
Enrolling in the right dental assistant course is imperative if you intend to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are numerous alternatives offered to receive your training and it takes a fairly short amount 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 normally receive a Certificate. Dental Assistants normally require about 1 year of study before they enter the work force. When pursuing a certificate or degree you can elect to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever credential or mode of training you elect to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the best choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in District of Columbia.