How to Choose a Dental Assistant Training Program in Iowa
Picking the right dental assistant college in Iowa is an essential first step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than choosing the school with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the school that is nearest to your residence. There are other crucial factors to take into account also, including the college’s accreditation and reputation. Your initial step is to decide which of the two specialties you are most interested in obtaining training for, which may depend on the amount of money and time that you have to invest. The most common dental assistant program generally takes about 12 months to complete for a diploma or certificate. Meanwhile dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to finish. Obviously with the lengthier training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these factors and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental assistant schools you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let’s explore the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options offered.
The Function of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an indispensable part of any Iowa dental office and can perform a multitude of tasks. Their main job description is to furnish assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice working efficiently. Some dental assistants elect to specialize and receive certification in a specific area, for example pediatrics. However most assistants perform any task that they are called upon to fulfill, such as:
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Sterilizing and preparing dental instruments
- Using suction equipment to clear patients’ mouths
- Handing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Ordering office and dental supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants vary by state, so check with the Iowa dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines most likely will have to be licensed and certified. Many dental assistants who are either required or opt to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Job of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the role of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is undoubtedly 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 Iowa practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are typically the initial person a patient encounters when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient’s gums and teeth and present their findings to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities may include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- 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 almost 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 examinations. Once they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant and Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant courses are offered at Iowa community colleges in addition to technical or vocational schools. The most typical credential acquired is the certificate, which usually takes about 1 year to finish. There are less Associate Degree programs available, and they provide a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assisting classes. Due to the additional responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental offices are normally required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can take anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in almost every state. They are also offered in Iowa community colleges and technical schools. Regardless of whether you are pursuing training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a clinical component to the training also. Many programs also offer internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Dental Assistant Online Colleges
Selecting an online dental assistant program can be a viable alternative for getting your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Iowa home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental programs make education far more accessible. Many may even charge lower tuition rates than their on-campus counterparts. And added expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened as well. The clinical training can often be performed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to receive the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this style of education, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist college is the right option for you.
What to Ask Dental Assistant Schools
When you have picked the dental specialization and type of credential you wish to earn, you can start the process of comparing Iowa programs and schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students begin by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Maybe they look for several online alternatives as well. Even though these may be important initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to address to the programs you are comparing 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 College Accredited? There are many important reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental assistant program. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in virtually all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the education you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Iowa frequently prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not obtainable for non-accredited Iowa schools.
Is The Right Dental Program Available? You can choose to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make sure that the Iowa school you choose offers 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. If you want to earn a living as a hygienist, the majority of Iowa dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, bear in mind that just because a college has a good reputation and accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a solid accredited dental hygienist program, but may have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are only interested in a dental assistant degree, naturally it would not be the ideal college for you.
Is Adequate Practical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is an important part of every dental training program. This holds true for the online school options also. A number of dental colleges have relationships with area dental practices and clinics that furnish 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 would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the Iowa school you choose offers clinical rotation in an area dental office that specializes in dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental colleges you are exploring have an internship program. Internships are probably the best method to get hands-on, practical experience in a professional Iowa dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students build working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Many graduating students of dental assistant colleges need help getting their first job. Ask if the programs you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Iowa dental profession in addition to large networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are Classrooms Smaller? Ask the Iowa schools you are interested in how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally offer a more intimate environment for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, large classes can be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If practical, ask if you can attend a couple of classes at the school that you are most interested in so that you can experience first hand the amount of interaction between students and instructors before making a commitment.
What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental assistant colleges can differ in cost based on the duration of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools and if they are private or public also come into play. But in addition to 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 equipment, materials and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of programs, remember to add all of the costs associated with your education. The majority of colleges have financial assistance offices, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Iowa.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental school, you need to confirm that the assistant program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while receiving your education and have to go to classes near your Iowa home at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online school, you will still have to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice is if you should need to miss any classes because of work, illness or family issues.
Pick the Right Dental Assistant College in Iowa
Enrolling in the right dental assistant course is essential if you want to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are numerous options available to receive your training and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can obtain your formal training through dental programs at junior colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these schools usually obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants normally require roughly 1 year of study prior to entering the job market. When obtaining a certificate or degree you can elect to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of education or credential you elect to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the best choice. And as a result, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Iowa.