How to Choose a Dental Assistant Training Program in Louisiana
Choosing the ideal dental assistant training in Louisiana is an essential initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to examine and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than selecting the school with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your home. There are other important factors to consider also, such as the college’s reputation and accreditation. Your first step is to decide which of the two specializations you are most interested in getting training for, which may depend on the amount of money and time that you have to commit. The most common dental assistant program generally takes about one year to finish for a certificate or diploma. However dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to accomplish. Obviously with the longer training of a dental hygienist comes more cost. We will explore all of these considerations 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 look at the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options available.
The Duties of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an integral part of any Louisiana dental office and can perform a wide range of duties. Their main job description is to provide support to the admin staff and the dentists. Or simply put, to help keep the practice running efficiently. A number of dental assistants elect to specialize and obtain certification in a specific area, such as orthodontics. Even so the majority of assistants carry out any task that they are called upon to fulfill, including:
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Readying patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Sterilizing and preparing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Prepping X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Purchasing dental and office supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants differ by state, so consult with the Louisiana dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants working with X-ray machines more than likely will have to be licensed and certified. Many dental assistants who are either required or decide to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Duties of a Dental Hygienist
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 discussed, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the Louisiana practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are often the first person a patient sees when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s gums and teeth and report their findings to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Instructing patients regarding oral care
- 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 Examination as well as any state licensure examinations. When they have completed 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 provided at Louisiana community colleges as well as technical or vocational schools. The most common credential attained is the certificate, which usually takes about a year to finish. There are less Associate Degree programs offered, and they furnish a more extensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. As a result of the increased responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed 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 Louisiana community colleges and technical schools. Regardless of whether you are interested in training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical aspect to the training as well. A number of programs also sponsor internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Assistant Schools
Selecting an online dental assistant college might be a good alternative for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be completely 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 Louisiana home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental classes make education a lot more accessible. Some may even charge lower tuition rates than their traditional counterparts. And added expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The clinical training can often be completed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to obtain the proper education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this style of learning, you may find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online program is the best option for you.
What to Cover With Dental Assistant Colleges
Once you have picked the dental specialization and kind of credential you would like to attain, you can begin the process of comparing Louisiana schools and programs. As we discussed at the start of this article, many prospective students begin by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Maybe they look for several online alternatives as well. Even though these are important initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you need to address to the schools you are looking at in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental Assistant College Accredited? There are several valid reasons why you should only select an accredited dental assistant college. 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 examination, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the education you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Louisiana typically prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not available for non-accredited Louisiana programs.
Is The Correct Dental Program Offered? You can elect to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just verify that the Louisiana school you decide on has 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. In order to earn a living as a hygienist, the majority of Louisiana dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not common, are offered. However, bear in mind that just because a college has an exceptional reputation as well as 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 solely interested in a dental assistant degree, clearly it would not be the ideal college for you.
Is Plenty of Clinical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is a vital portion of any dental training program. This is true for the online school options as well. Many dental programs have relationships with area dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the program you enroll in offers enough clinical hours but also provides them in the kind 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 Louisiana program you select offers clinical rotation in an area dental office that specializes in dental treatment for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Ask if the dental programs you are looking at have an internship program. Internships are probably the most effective method to receive hands-on, practical experience in a real Louisiana dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students develop professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Many students that have graduated from dental assistant programs need assistance obtaining their first job. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Louisiana dental profession in addition to large networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classrooms Smaller? Check with the Louisiana programs you are interested in how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally provide a more personal environment for training where students have increased access to the instructors. Conversely, large classes often are impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If practical, ask if you can monitor a couple of classes at the college that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the amount of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental assistant schools can fluctuate in cost based on the length of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when comparing the cost of schools, remember to include all of the costs associated with your education. The majority of schools have financial assistance departments, so be sure to find out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Louisiana.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental college, you need to make sure that the assistant program provides classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while receiving your education and need to attend classes near your Louisiana home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online school, you will still be required 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 due to work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Best Dental Assistant Program in Louisiana
Picking the right dental assistant program is important if you wish to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are a number of alternatives available to acquire your training and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can acquire your formal education through dental programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs normally receive a Certificate. Dental Assistants normally require roughly one year of study before they enter the work force. When earning a certificate or degree you can choose to go to 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 ideal choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Louisiana.