How to Pick a Dental Assistant College in Massachusetts
Picking the right dental assistant college in Massachusetts is an important initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you must evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than selecting the program with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other significant issues to consider also, for instance the college’s accreditation and reputation. Your initial step is to decide which of the 2 specializations you are most interested in getting training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you are willing to invest. The most common dental assistant program usually takes about 12 months to finish for a certificate or diploma. On the other hand dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to complete. Obviously with the more extensive training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will explore all of these issues 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 explore the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options provided.
The Function of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an essential component of any Massachusetts dental practice and can perform a multitude of tasks. Their main job description is to give assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice working efficiently. Many dental assistants opt to specialize and receive certification in a specific area, for instance pediatrics. However most assistants perform any duty that they are asked to fulfill, such as:
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Preparing and sterilizing instruments for dentists
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Ordering office and dental supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so consult with the Massachusetts dental board for your state’s policies. Assistants working with X-ray machines more than likely will need to be licensed and certified. Most dental assistants who are either required or decide to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Job of Dental Hygienists
When comparing the duties of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the most significant difference is probably that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier mentioned, the dental assistant works with and assists the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the Massachusetts practice, deal 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 gums and teeth and report their results to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Instructing patients about oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- 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 Examination in addition to passing any state licensure examinations. When 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 & Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant courses are provided at Massachusetts community colleges in addition to vocational or technical schools. The most typical credential attained is the certificate, which usually takes about 1 year to complete. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they provide a more comprehensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. As a result of the added responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental practices are usually required to have 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 Massachusetts 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 also. Some programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Assistant Colleges
Selecting an online dental assistant school might be a great alternative for receiving your training. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided via your personal computer in the comfort of your Massachusetts home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Some may even charge lower tuition rates than their traditional competitors. And supplementary expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. The clinical training can often be performed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything needed to get the appropriate education is provided. If you have the discipline for this method of education, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist program is the best option for you.
Points to Cover With Dental Assistant Schools
When you have decided on the dental specialty and kind of credential you want to obtain, you can start the process of comparing Massachusetts programs and schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many students begin by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Perhaps they look for some online options also. Although these may be significant initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the schools you are reviewing in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have included a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the best dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental Assistant School Accredited? There are many important reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant program. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a prerequisite in almost 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 of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Massachusetts often prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not available for non-accredited Massachusetts programs.
Is The Correct Dental Program Available? You can decide to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just make certain that the Massachusetts school you select offers the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the choices are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. In order to work as a hygienist, many Massachusetts dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not common, are offered. However, bear in mind that even if a college has a good reputation as well as 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 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 best college for you.
Is Enough Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a vital portion of every dental training program. This applies for the online college options as well. A number of dental schools have relationships with area dental practices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the program you enroll in offers enough clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the Massachusetts school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in an area dental office that specializes in dental care for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Ask if the dental colleges you are looking at have an internship program. Internships are probably the ideal way to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a professional Massachusetts dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students form professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant colleges need help landing their first job. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Massachusetts dental profession in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classrooms Small? Check with the Massachusetts programs you are evaluating how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate setting for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, bigger classes can be impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can monitor a few classes at the school 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 Total Cost of the Program? Dental assistant training can fluctuate in cost based on the length of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But along with the tuition there are other significant expenses 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 comparing the cost of colleges, don’t forget to include all of the costs associated with your education. Most colleges have financial aid departments, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Massachusetts.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental college, you need to confirm that the assistant program provides classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while receiving your education and must attend classes near your Massachusetts home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online college, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Select the Ideal Dental Assistant College in Massachusetts
Selecting the right dental assistant program is imperative if you want to take the CDA examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are a number of options offered to receive your education and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can receive 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 usually require about one year of study before they enter the work force. When earning a certificate or degree you can elect to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever credential or mode of training you choose to pursue, by addressing the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the best choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Massachusetts.