How to Choose a Dental Assistant School in Kentucky
Selecting the right dental assistant program in Kentucky is an essential initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you must examine and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than picking the college with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your residence. There are other crucial issues to take into account as well, including the program’s accreditation and reputation. Your first step is to decide which of the two specializations you are most interested in obtaining training for, which may be contingent on the amount of time and money that you have to invest. The most typical dental assistant program normally takes about one year to complete for a diploma or certificate. On the other hand dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to finish. Naturally with the lengthier training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these issues and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental assistant schools you are assessing later in this article. But first, let’s review the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options available.
The Job of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an indispensable component of any Kentucky dental practice and can perform a variety of duties. Their main job description is to give support to the dentists and the administrative staff. In other words, to help keep the practice running efficiently. A number of dental assistants choose to specialize and receive certification in a specific area, for example pediatrics. However most assistants carry out any job that they are asked to fulfill, such as:
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Preparing and sterilizing instruments for dentists
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Handing 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 differ by state, so consult with the Kentucky dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants working with X-ray machines most likely will have to be certified and licensed. Many dental assistants who are either required or elect to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam 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 main difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously discussed, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the Kentucky 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 every patient’s teeth and gums and present their results to the dentists. They may also carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Instructing patients regarding oral hygiene
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
In order to be licensed 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 Examination as well as 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 & Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant courses are offered at Kentucky community colleges along with trade or vocational schools. The most frequent credential attained is the certificate, which ordinarily takes about 1 year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs available, and they furnish a more extensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. Because of the increased responsibility as compared 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 finish and must be accredited by the CDA in virtually every state. They are also offered in Kentucky trade schools and community colleges. Whether you are interested in training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical aspect to the training also. A number of programs also sponsor internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Dental Assistant Online Colleges
Choosing an online dental assistant college may be a good option for getting your training. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be completely online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the rest of your classes will be provided via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Kentucky home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to school, online dental classes make education much more accessible. Many may even charge lower tuition costs than their traditional counterparts. And added expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened also. The practical training can often be performed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything needed to obtain the proper education is provided. If you have the dedication for this method of education, you might find that attending an dental hygienist online program is the ideal choice for you.
What to Cover With Dental Assistant Programs
Once you have selected the dental specialty and type of credential you want to obtain, you can start the procedure of comparing Kentucky schools and programs. As we covered at the start of this article, a number of potential students begin by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Perhaps they look for some online options as well. Even though these may be relevant initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you should address to the schools you are looking at in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have included a list of questions to help 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 valid reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant college. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a prerequisite in nearly all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the education you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Kentucky frequently desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not offered for non-accredited Kentucky schools.
Is The Right Dental Program Offered? You can decide to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just confirm that the Kentucky college you select has the program that you want. For the assistant program, the choices are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. In order to have a career as a hygienist, many Kentucky dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, keep in mind that even if a college has a good reputation as well as accreditation does not mean each one of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited school may have a strong 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, clearly it would not be the ideal college for you.
Is Adequate Practical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is a vital part of any dental training program. This holds true for the online college options as well. Many dental programs have associations with area dental offices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It’s not only important that the college you enroll in provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the Kentucky college you choose offers clinical rotation in an area dental office that specializes in dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental colleges you are considering sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the best way to receive hands-on, practical experience in a real Kentucky dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students develop working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Most graduating students of dental assistant schools require assistance getting their first job. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Kentucky dental profession as well as large networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classes Small? Find out from the Kentucky schools you are reviewing how large on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally offer a more intimate atmosphere for training where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, larger classes often are impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If practical, find out if you can sit in on a few classes at the college that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the degree of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.
What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental assistant programs can fluctuate in cost based on the duration of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools and if they are public or private also come into play. But besides 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 materials, equipment and supplies. So when examining the cost of programs, don’t forget to include all of the costs related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid departments, so make sure to check out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Kentucky.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental school, you need to make sure that the assistant program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while getting your education and have to go to classes near your Kentucky home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you select an online program, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up procedure is if you should need to miss any classes because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Select the Ideal Dental Assistant College in Kentucky
Picking the ideal dental assistant program is essential if you intend to take the CDA exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are several alternatives offered to acquire your education and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can obtain your formal education through dental programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools usually receive a Certificate. Dental Assistants typically require approximately one year of study before they enter the job market. When pursuing 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 addressing the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the ideal choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Kentucky.