How to Select a Dental Assistant Training Program in Florida
Selecting the right dental assistant program in Florida is an essential initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you need to evaluate and compare your school options. There is much more to doing your due diligence than picking the college with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your residence. There are other significant factors to consider also, including 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 be contingent on the amount of time and money that you are willing to commit. The most common dental assistant program generally takes about 1 year to finish 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 accomplish. Naturally with the more extensive training of a dental hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these factors and additional questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are assessing later in this article. But first, let’s look at the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options offered.
The Function of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an indispensable part of any Florida dental office and can undertake a myriad of duties. Their principal job description is to furnish support to the dentists and the administrative staff. Or simply put, to help keep the practice working efficiently. A number of dental assistants opt to specialize and acquire certification in a specific area, such as orthodontics. Even so the majority of assistants perform any task that they are asked to fulfill, such as:
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Prepping patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Ordering office and dental supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants vary by state, so consult with the Florida dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines more than likely will need to be licensed and certified. A large number of 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 Dental Hygienists
When comparing the job of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier discussed, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also assisting the Florida practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are typically the first person a patient sees when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient’s teeth and gums and present their results to the dentists. They may also carry out basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s duties can include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Teaching patients about oral hygiene
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
To qualify for licensing 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 Exam in addition to passing any state licensing examinations. When they have fulfilled these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant courses are offered at Florida community colleges as well as vocational or technical schools. The most frequent credential acquired is the certificate, which usually takes about 1 year to complete. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they furnish a more extensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assistant classes. As a result of the additional responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental practices are usually required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can take anywhere from two to as long as three years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly every state. They are also offered in Florida trade schools and community colleges. Whether you are pursuing training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a clinical aspect to the training as well. Many programs also sponsor internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Dental Assistant Online Colleges
Choosing an online dental assistant college can be a good option for getting your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your Florida home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those working while going to college, online dental classes make education much more accessible. Many may even have lower tuition rates than their traditional competitors. And supplementary expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. The practical training can typically be completed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to receive the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this style of learning, you might find that attending an dental hygienist online school is the right option for you.
Subjects to Cover With Dental Assistant Schools
After you have decided on the dental specialty and kind of credential you wish to earn, you can begin the procedure of comparing Florida 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 alternatives also. Although these may be significant initial factors to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should address to the colleges you are comparing in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have supplied a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and final selection of the best dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental Assistant Program Accredited? There are several good reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant college. If you are planning 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 guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Florida often desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, often they are not obtainable for non-accredited Florida schools.
Is The Proper Dental Program Offered? You can elect to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just make certain that the Florida school 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 work as a hygienist, a large number of Florida dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are offered. However, bear in mind that just because a school has a good reputation as well as accreditation does not mean each one of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a strong 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 best school for you.
Is Enough Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is a vital component of every dental training program. This holds true for the online college options as well. A number of dental programs have relationships with local dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the school you select offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently want to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the Florida school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local dental office that focuses on dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental schools you are considering sponsor internship programs. Internships are probably the best method to receive hands-on, clinical experience in a real Florida dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students create professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they look good on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Many graduating students of dental assistant colleges need assistance getting their first job. Check if the colleges 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 Florida dental community as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are Classrooms Smaller? Check with the Florida schools you are interested in how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to offer a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the instructors. Conversely, larger classes can be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can monitor a few classes at the college that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the degree of interaction between teachers and students before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental assistant training can vary in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the colleges and whether they are private or public also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other substantial expenses which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when examining the cost of colleges, remember to include all of the costs associated with your education. The majority of colleges have financial assistance offices, so make sure to check out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Florida.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental school, you must make sure that the assistant program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while acquiring your education and have to go to classes near your Florida home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online college, you will still have to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should need to miss any classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Dental Assistant College in Florida
Selecting the ideal dental assistant program is crucial if you want to take the CDA examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are several alternatives offered to acquire your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can acquire your formal training through dental programs at junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools normally obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants generally require roughly one year of study prior to entering the work force. When pursuing a certificate or degree you can elect to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of education or credential you choose 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 start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Florida.