How to Select a Dental Assistant Training Program in Maine
Choosing the ideal dental assistant college in Maine is an essential first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you must assess and compare your school options. There is much more to doing your due diligence than choosing the training with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your residence. There are other significant issues to take into account also, such as the program’s accreditation and reputation. Your first step is to decide which of the 2 specializations you are most interested in receiving training for, which may depend on the amount of money and time that you are willing to commit. The most typical dental assistant program generally takes about one year to complete for a certificate or diploma. Meanwhile dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to accomplish. Naturally with the longer training of a dental hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these considerations and additional 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 Role of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an essential component of any Maine dental practice and can carry out a wide range of functions. Their primary job description is to provide support to the dentists and the administrative staff. Or simply put, to help keep the practice running efficiently. A number of dental assistants elect to specialize and earn certification in a particular area, for example pediatrics. Even so most assistants carry out any task that they are called upon to complete, including:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Sterilizing and preparing dental instruments
- Using suction equipment to clear patients’ mouths
- Providing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying X-ray machines and handling X-rays
- Purchasing dental and office supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants differ by state, so check with the Maine dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants working with X-ray machines most likely will have to be licensed and certified. Most 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 Duties of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the duties of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the biggest difference is probably 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 Maine practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are often the first person a patient encounters when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient’s teeth and gums and report their findings to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Instructing patients about 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 have graduated from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam as well as any state licensing examinations. Once they have completed 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 Training Options
Dental assistant programs are provided at Maine junior colleges along with technical or vocational schools. The most frequent credential earned is the certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to complete. There are less Associate Degree programs offered, and they provide a more expansive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. Due to the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental practices are generally 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 Maine community colleges and technical schools. Regardless of whether you are pursuing training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical component to the training also. Some programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Dental Assistant Online Training Programs
Enrolling in an online dental assistant college may be a good alternative for obtaining your training. Just remember that the classes will not be completely online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be accessible by means of your personal computer in the convenience of your Maine home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those working while attending college, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Many may even charge lower tuition costs than their on-campus counterparts. And supplementary expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened as well. The clinical training can usually be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to receive the appropriate education is provided. If you have the discipline for this method of learning, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist college is the ideal option for you.
Subjects to Cover With Dental Assistant Programs
Once you have picked the dental specialty and kind of credential you wish to obtain, you can begin the procedure of comparing Maine programs and schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many students start by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Maybe they search for several online alternatives also. Even though these are important initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the colleges you are comparing in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have provided a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant School Accredited? There are many important reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant college. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in almost all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant examination, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the training you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Maine frequently desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not provided for non-accredited Maine programs.
Is The Appropriate Dental Program Offered? You can choose to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just confirm that the Maine college you choose has the program that you want. For the assistant program, the options are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. If you want to work as a hygienist, most Maine dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are offered. However, keep in mind that even if a school has an excellent reputation and accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited school may have a solid accredited dental hygienist program, but may have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are solely interested in a dental assistant degree, naturally it would not be the ideal school for you.
Is Adequate Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is a vital component of every dental training program. This applies for the online college options also. A number of dental programs have relationships with area dental offices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the school you select offers sufficient 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 Maine college you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a regional dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental schools you are exploring sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the best method to obtain hands-on, practical experience in a real Maine 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 are attractive on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Many students that have graduated from dental assistant colleges require assistance getting their first job. Check if the colleges you are looking at have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Maine dental profession as well as broad networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classes Small? Find out from the Maine colleges you are reviewing how big typically their classes are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate environment for learning where students have increased access to the instructors. On the other hand, large classes often are impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If feasible, ask if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the college that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the level of interaction between instructors and students before making a commitment.
What is the Overall Cost of the Program? Dental assistant programs can differ in cost based on the duration of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also come into play. But besides the tuition there are other significant expenses 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 examining the cost of colleges, don’t forget to add all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial assistance offices, so be sure to check out what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Maine.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental school, you must confirm that the assistant program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while receiving your education and must go to classes near your Maine home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online program, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice is if you should have to miss any classes because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Ideal Dental Assistant College in Maine
Selecting the ideal dental assistant program is essential if you want to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are several 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 training through dental programs at junior colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these programs normally earn 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 online or on-campus. Whichever credential or mode of training you elect to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the appropriate choice. And as a result, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Maine.