How to Select a Dental Assistant Program in Idaho
Selecting the ideal dental assistant college in Idaho is an essential first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is far more to completing your due diligence than choosing the school with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your home. There are other important factors to take into account also, such as the program’s accreditation and reputation. Your first step is to decide which of the two specialties you are most interested in obtaining training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you are willing to invest. The most common dental assistant program normally takes about 12 months to finish for a diploma or certificate. Meanwhile dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to complete. Obviously with the prolonged training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will cover all of these issues and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the dental assistant schools you are looking at later in this article. But first, let’s explore the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options offered.
The Job of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an integral component of any Idaho dental office and can carry out a wide range of duties. Their primary job description is to provide support to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice working successfully. A number of dental assistants choose to specialize and acquire certification in a particular area, for example orthodontics. However most assistants perform any task that they are asked to fulfill, such as:
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Preparing 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
- Purchasing office and dental supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so check with the Idaho dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants handling X-ray machines more than likely will have to be licensed and certified. Most dental assistants who are either required or elect to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Job of Dental Hygienists
When contrasting the duties of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the biggest difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier discussed, the dental assistant works with and assists the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the Idaho practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently the first person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s gums and teeth and present their findings to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Educating patients regarding 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 as well as any state licensing exams. When 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 & Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant programs are provided at Idaho junior colleges along with vocational or technical schools. The most common credential earned is the certificate, which generally takes about a year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs available, and they provide a more expansive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assisting classes. Due to the increased responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental practices are generally required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from two to as long as three years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in virtually every state. They are also offered in Idaho trade schools and community colleges. Regardless of whether you are interested in training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a practical aspect to the training as well. Some programs also offer internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Dental Assistant Online Training Programs
Selecting an online dental assistant school may be a good alternative for receiving your education. Just remember that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be available by means of your personal computer in the convenience of your Idaho home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to college, online dental programs make education a lot more accessible. Many may even charge lower tuition fees than their on-campus counterparts. And supplementary expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The practical training can usually be performed at an area 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 style of learning, you may find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist college is the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Dental Assistant Colleges
After you have selected the dental specialty and type of credential you want to attain, you can start the procedure of comparing Idaho programs and schools. As we covered at the start of this article, many prospective students start by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Possibly they look for some online options as well. Although these may be significant initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you need to ask of the schools you are reviewing in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have provided a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the ideal 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 going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in almost 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 instruction you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Idaho often prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, often they are not obtainable for non-accredited Idaho colleges.
Is The Right Dental Program Available? You can opt to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make sure that the Idaho college you select has the program that you want. For the assistant program, the alternatives are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. In order to have a career as a hygienist, many Idaho dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not prevalent, are offered. However, keep in mind that even if a school has an exceptional 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 only interested in a dental assistant degree, obviously it would not be the ideal college for you.
Is Plenty of Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an essential component of every dental training program. This is true for the online school options also. Most dental programs have partnerships with area dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the college you enroll in offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the Idaho school you select offers clinical rotation in an area dental office that focuses on dental services for children.
Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental schools you are evaluating sponsor internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the best means to get hands-on, practical experience in a professional Idaho 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 Provided? Most graduating students of dental assistant colleges need help landing their first job. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Idaho dental profession as well as large networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.
Are Classes Small? Find out from the Idaho programs you are reviewing how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes usually offer a more personal atmosphere for training where students have greater access to the instructors. Conversely, large classes can be impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can monitor a few classes at the college that you are leaning toward in order to experience first hand the amount of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental assistant programs can differ in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the colleges and if they are private or public also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other substantial costs 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 analyzing the cost of schools, remember to include all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid departments, so make sure to check out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Idaho.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental school, you need to make sure that the assistant program provides classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while getting your education and have to attend classes near your Idaho home at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, you will still need to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up procedure is if you should need to miss any classes due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Ideal Dental Assistant School in Idaho
Selecting the right dental assistant program is crucial if you wish to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are a number of alternatives available to obtain your training and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can receive your formal training through dental programs at junior colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these programs typically earn a Certificate. Dental Assistants generally require approximately one year of study prior to entering the job market. When pursuing a certificate or degree you can choose to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever credential or mode of training you elect to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the appropriate choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Idaho.