How to Select a Dental Assistant Program in Maryland
Choosing the right dental assistant school in Maryland is an essential initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you need to examine and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than picking the school with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your residence. There are other crucial factors to consider also, including the program’s reputation and accreditation. Your initial step is to decide which of the 2 specializations you are most interested in getting training for, which may be contingent on the amount of time and money that you have to commit. The most typical dental assistant program normally takes about 12 months to finish for a diploma or certificate. However dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to accomplish. Obviously with the more extensive training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these issues and supplemental 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 roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options available.
The Job of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an indispensable part of any Maryland dental practice and can undertake a myriad of duties. Their fundamental job description is to give assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. Or simply put, to help keep the practice operating successfully. Some dental assistants choose to specialize and obtain certification in a specific area, such as periodontics. Even so the majority of assistants carry out any task that they are asked to complete, for example:
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Readying patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Sterilizing and preparing dental instruments
- Using suction equipment to clear patients’ mouths
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Purchasing office and dental supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants vary by state, so check with the Maryland dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants working with X-ray machines more than likely will need to be certified and licensed. 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 Job of Dental Hygienists
When comparing the job of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the biggest difference is probably 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 Maryland practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are frequently 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 also may carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities may include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Instructing patients regarding oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
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 Exam in addition to passing any state licensing exams. When they have completed these requirements they are considered 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 offered at Maryland community colleges in addition to technical or vocational schools. The most frequent credential earned is the certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to complete. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they provide a more extensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assisting classes. Because of the increased responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental offices are normally required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require 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 Maryland vocational schools and community colleges. Whether you are pursuing training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a practical component to the training as well. Some programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Dental Assistant Online Programs
Selecting an online dental assistant school might be a great option for obtaining your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be provided via your desktop computer in the convenience of your Maryland home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while attending college, online dental classes make education far more accessible. Some may even charge lower tuition rates than their on-campus counterparts. And supplementary expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The practical 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 get the proper education is provided. If you have the discipline for this mode of learning, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist program is the best choice for you.
Issues to Cover With Dental Assistant Colleges
Once you have decided on the dental specialty and kind of credential you wish to attain, you can begin the process of comparing Maryland schools and programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of students start by checking out the location and the cost of the colleges. Possibly they search for several online alternatives as well. Even though these may be important initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you need to ask of the colleges 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 due diligence and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant College Accredited? There are several valid reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental assistant program. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the training you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Maryland frequently prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not obtainable for non-accredited Maryland colleges.
Is The Appropriate Dental Program Offered? You can elect to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just confirm that the Maryland school you select has the program that you want. For the assistant program, the choices are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. If you want to work as a hygienist, most Maryland dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, bear in mind that just because a college has an exceptional 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 primarily interested in a dental assistant degree, obviously it would not be the best school for you.
Is Sufficient Practical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is a vital component of every dental training program. This applies for the online college options as well. Many dental programs have associations with local dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the school you select offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the Maryland program you enroll in offers clinical rotation in an area dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental colleges you are considering sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective means to receive hands-on, practical experience in a professional Maryland dental practice. They help 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 Support Provided? Most graduating students of dental assistant colleges need help getting their first job. Check if the schools you are considering have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Maryland dental profession as well as large networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are Classes Smaller? Check with the Maryland schools you are interested in how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally offer a more personal environment for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, larger classes often are impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If practical, find out if you can attend a couple of classes at the school that you are leaning toward so that you can experience first hand the level of interaction between instructors and students before enrolling.
What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental assistant colleges can fluctuate in cost dependent on the length of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the colleges and if 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 materials, equipment and supplies. So when comparing the cost of programs, remember to add all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid offices, so be sure to find out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Maryland.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental school, you need to confirm that the assistant program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while receiving your education and need to go to classes near your Maryland home at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online college, you will still need 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 work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Ideal Dental Assistant Program in Maryland
Selecting the right dental assistant program is imperative if you intend to take the CDA examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are many options offered to acquire your training and it takes a fairly short amount 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 typically obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants generally require roughly one year of study before they enter the work force. When pursuing a certificate or degree you can elect to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever credential or mode of training you decide to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the appropriate selection. And as a result, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Maryland.