How to Pick a Dental Assistant School in Illinois
Picking the ideal dental assistant college in Illinois is an important initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you need to analyze and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than choosing the college with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the school that is closest to your residence. There are other important factors to take into account as well, such as the school’s accreditation and reputation. Your first step is to decide which of the 2 specializations you are most interested in obtaining training for, which may be contingent on the amount of money and time that you have to invest. The most common dental assistant program normally takes about 1 year to finish for a certificate or diploma. On the other hand dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to finish. Obviously with the more extensive training of a dental hygienist comes more cost. We will discuss all of these concerns and additional questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are looking at later in this article. But first, let’s look at the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options provided.
The Role of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an integral component of any Illinois dental practice and can carry out a myriad of tasks. Their primary job description is to give assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice running successfully. Some dental assistants elect to specialize and obtain certification in a particular area, for instance periodontics. However most assistants carry out any task that they are called upon to complete, including:
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Sterilizing and preparing dental instruments
- 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
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so check with the Illinois dental board for your state’s policies. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines most likely will need to be licensed and certified. Most dental assistants who are either required or opt to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Job of Dental Hygienists
When contrasting the duties of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously mentioned, the dental assistant works with and in support of the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also assisting the Illinois practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are frequently the first person a patient encounters when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient’s teeth and gums and present their results to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Teaching patients about oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
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 also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in addition to passing any state licensure exams. After they have completed these requirements they are considered 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 Illinois junior colleges in addition to vocational or technical schools. The most frequent credential acquired is the certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to complete. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they furnish a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. Because of the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental practices are generally 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 Illinois community colleges and technical schools. Regardless of whether you are interested in training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a clinical aspect to the training as well. A number of programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Assistant Schools
Choosing an online dental assistant program can be a good alternative for obtaining your education. Just remember that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible via your desktop computer in the convenience of your Illinois home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending college, online dental classes make education far more accessible. Many may even offer lower tuition rates than their on-campus competitors. And additional expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced also. The practical training can usually be performed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to get the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this method of education, you may find that attending an dental hygienist online program is the ideal option for you.
Issues to Cover With Dental Assistant Colleges
When you have picked the dental specialization and type of credential you would like to earn, you can begin the process of comparing Illinois programs and schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of potential students begin by checking out the location and the cost of the schools. Perhaps they look for some online alternatives as well. Although these may be relevant initial factors to consider, there are several 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 school for you.
Is the Dental Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons why you should only select an accredited dental assistant program. If you are intending to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in nearly all states. To qualify 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 of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Illinois frequently prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not available for non-accredited Illinois programs.
Is The Correct Dental Program Offered? You can decide to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just confirm that the Illinois school you decide on has the program that you want. For the assistant program, the choices are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. If you want to earn a living as a hygienist, the majority of Illinois dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, keep in mind that just because a school has a good reputation and 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 might have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are solely interested in a dental assistant degree, obviously it would not be the ideal school for you.
Is Enough Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is an essential portion of every dental training program. This is true for the online school options also. Many dental schools have associations with area dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the college you choose offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the Illinois college you select offers clinical rotation in a local dental practice that focuses on dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental schools you are exploring sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective means to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a real Illinois dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant programs require help obtaining their first job. Check if the colleges you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Illinois dental community in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classrooms Small? Find out from the Illinois colleges you are interested in how big on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to provide a more intimate setting for training where students have increased access to the instructors. Conversely, bigger classes tend to be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If practical, ask if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the college that you are most interested in so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between teachers and students before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental assistant training can fluctuate in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the volume of clinical 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 costs for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when examining the cost of schools, remember to add all of the expenses related to your education. Most colleges have financial aid offices, so be sure to ask what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Illinois.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental college, you must confirm that the assistant program provides classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while getting your education and must attend classes near your Illinois home at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online college, you will still need to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up policy is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Find the Ideal Dental Assistant Program in Illinois
Picking the right dental assistant program is crucial if you want to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are numerous 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 training through dental programs at community colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these programs typically obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants generally require about one year of study prior to entering the work force. When obtaining a certificate or degree you can choose to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever credential or mode of training you elect to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the best selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Illinois.