How to Select a Dental Assistant College in Michigan
Picking the ideal dental assistant program in Michigan is an important first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to examine and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than selecting the college with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your home. There are other significant issues to take into account also, such as the program’s reputation and accreditation. Your initial step is to decide which of the 2 specialties 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 1 year to complete for a certificate or diploma. On the other hand dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to finish. Obviously with the prolonged training of a dental hygienist comes more cost. We will talk about all of these issues and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental assistant schools you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let’s look at the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options offered.
The Function of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an essential component of any Michigan dental office and can undertake a multitude of functions. Their primary job description is to furnish support to the dentists and the administrative staff. Or simply put, to help keep the practice running successfully. A number of dental assistants choose to specialize and earn certification in a particular area, for instance orthodontics. Even so most assistants perform any job that they are called upon to fulfill, such as:
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Prepping patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Preparing and sterilizing instruments for dentists
- Using suction equipment to clear patients’ mouths
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Purchasing dental and office supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so consult with the Michigan dental board for your state’s regulations. 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) examination provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Duties of Dental Hygienists
When comparing the job of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the most significant difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously mentioned, the dental assistant works with and assists the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the Michigan practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are usually the first person a patient sees when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s gums and teeth and present their findings 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
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Instructing patients about oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
In order to be licensed in almost 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 Exam as well as any state licensing examinations. Once they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant programs are offered at Michigan community colleges as well as trade or vocational schools. The most common credential attained is the certificate, which generally takes about one year to complete. There are less Associate Degree programs offered, and they furnish a more expansive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. Because of the added responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental practices are often required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in virtually every state. They are also offered in Michigan 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. Many programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Dental Assistant Online Training Programs
Selecting an online dental assistant school can be a great option for receiving your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be provided via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Michigan home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending college, online dental classes make education a lot more obtainable. Many may even charge lower tuition rates than their on-campus counterparts. And additional expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened also. The practical training can often be completed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to receive the proper education is provided. If you have the dedication for this mode of learning, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist college is the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Cover With Dental Assistant Schools
Once you have picked the dental specialization and kind of credential you wish to attain, you can start the process of comparing Michigan programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many prospective students start by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Maybe they look for some online options also. Even though these are significant initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to ask of the programs you are comparing in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have supplied a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental Assistant Program Accredited? There are many important reasons why you should only select an accredited dental assistant college. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually 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 instruction you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Michigan often desire 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 offered for non-accredited Michigan colleges.
Is The Appropriate Dental Program Offered? You can choose to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make certain that the Michigan college you decide on offers 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 have a career as a hygienist, the majority of Michigan dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not common, are available. However, bear in mind that even if a school has an excellent 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 might have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are just interested in a dental assistant degree, clearly it would not be the ideal school for you.
Is Enough Clinical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is a vital component of every dental training program. This applies for the online school options also. Most dental schools have associations with area dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It’s not only important that the college you enroll in offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately want to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the Michigan school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a regional dental office that focuses on dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental programs you are evaluating have internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal way to receive hands-on, clinical experience in a professional Michigan dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Many students that have graduated from dental assistant colleges need help landing their first job. Check if the colleges you are considering have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Michigan dental profession in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.
Are Classrooms Small? Ask the Michigan programs you are looking at how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate environment for training where students have increased access to the teachers. Conversely, bigger classes often are impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can monitor a few classes at the school that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the degree of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.
What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental assistant schools can differ in cost based on the length of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools and if they are private or public also have an impact. 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 analyzing the cost of programs, don’t forget to add all of the expenses related to your education. Most colleges have financial assistance offices, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Michigan.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental school, you must make sure that the assistant program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while getting your education and need to attend classes near your Michigan home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you select an online program, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up practice is if you should need to miss any classes because of work, illness or family issues.
Select the Right Dental Assistant School in Michigan
Selecting the right dental assistant course is crucial if you want to take the CDA examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are several options offered to acquire your education and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can receive your formal training through dental programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools typically receive a Certificate. Dental Assistants usually require about one year of study prior to entering the work force. When obtaining a certificate or degree you can elect to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of education or credential you choose to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the right selection. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Michigan.