How to Select a Dental Assistant Training Program in Georgia
Choosing the right dental assistant college in Georgia is an essential first 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 much more to completing your due diligence than choosing the program with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the school that is closest to your home. There are other important issues to take into account also, including the college’s reputation and accreditation. Your initial step is to decide which of the 2 specializations you are most interested in getting training for, which may be contingent on the amount of time and money that you are willing to invest. The most typical dental assistant program normally 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. Naturally with the more extensive training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will explore all of these concerns and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental assistant schools you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let’s explore the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options provided.
The Function of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an important part of any Georgia dental office and can perform a multitude of duties. Their primary job description is to furnish support to the dentists and the administrative staff. In other words, to help keep the practice running efficiently. Some dental assistants opt to specialize and earn certification in a specific area, such as pediatrics. However most assistants carry out any task that they are called upon to fulfill, such as:
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Sterilizing and preparing instruments for dentists
- Using suction equipment to clear patients’ mouths
- Supplying 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 consult with the Georgia dental board for your state’s policies. Assistants working with X-ray machines most likely will have to be licensed and certified. Most dental assistants who are either required or choose to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Role of Dental Hygienists
When comparing the role of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the main difference is probably that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously discussed, the dental assistant works with and in support of the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the Georgia practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently the initial person a patient encounters when called from the waiting area. They examine every patient’s gums and teeth and report their results to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities may include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Administering 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 have graduated 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 licensure exams. Once they have fulfilled these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant and Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant courses are provided at Georgia junior colleges in addition to vocational or technical schools. The most common credential attained is the certificate, which usually takes about 1 year to finish. There are less Associate Degree programs available, and they provide a more comprehensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assistant classes. As a result of the added 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 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 Georgia vocational schools and community colleges. Whether you are pursuing training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a clinical aspect to the training as well. Many programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Assistant Training Programs
Choosing an online dental assistant program might be a good option for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided by means of your desktop computer in the comfort of your Georgia home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending school, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Some may even have lower tuition costs than their traditional counterparts. And additional expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened as well. The clinical training can typically be completed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to obtain the proper education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this style of learning, you might find that attending an online dental hygienist college is the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Dental Assistant Colleges
When you have picked the dental specialty and kind of credential you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of comparing Georgia programs and schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, many students start by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Possibly they look for some online alternatives also. Even though these may be relevant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the colleges you are looking at in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and final selection of the right dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of important reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant program. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a prerequisite in virtually all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the education you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Georgia typically prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not obtainable for non-accredited Georgia schools.
Is The Proper Dental Program Available? You can elect to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just make sure that the Georgia school you select offers the program that you want. 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, most Georgia dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not prevalent, are offered. However, bear in mind that just because a college has an excellent 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 primarily interested in a dental assistant degree, naturally it would not be the right school for you.
Is Sufficient Clinical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is a necessary part of any dental training program. This applies for the online school options as well. Most dental programs have partnerships with area dental practices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the program you select provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the Georgia college you select offers clinical rotation in a regional dental office that specializes in dental services for children.
Are Internships Available? Ask if the dental programs you are considering have an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the best way to get hands-on, clinical experience in a real Georgia dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students form working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Most graduating students of dental assistant programs need help landing their first job. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Georgia dental community as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classes Smaller? Find out from the Georgia programs you are reviewing how big typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to offer a more personal setting for learning where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, larger classes can be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can attend a few classes at the college that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the degree of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.
What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental assistant schools can fluctuate in cost depending on the duration of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial expenses which can add up. They can include costs for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when comparing the cost of programs, don’t forget to add all of the expenses related to your education. Most schools have financial aid offices, so be sure to check out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Georgia.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental college, you need to make sure that the assistant program furnishes classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while getting your education and need to attend classes near your Georgia home at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online college, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Best Dental Assistant College in Georgia
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 you now know, there are several alternatives available to acquire your training and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can receive your formal education through dental programs at junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools normally earn a Certificate. Dental Assistants normally require roughly one year of study before they enter the job market. When pursuing a certificate or degree you can choose to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of education or credential you choose to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the appropriate selection. And as a result, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Georgia.