How to Choose a Dental Assistant Training Program in Minnesota
Choosing the right dental assistant training in Minnesota is an essential first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to analyze and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than choosing the training with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the school that is closest to your residence. There are other significant issues to take into account as well, such as the school’s reputation and accreditation. Your initial step is to decide which of the two specialties you are most interested in getting training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you have to invest. The most common dental assistant program generally takes about 12 months to complete 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 prolonged training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will cover all of these issues and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let’s explore the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options available.
The Function of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an essential part of any Minnesota dental office and can carry out a myriad of functions. Their fundamental job description is to give support to the admin staff and the dentists. Or simply put, to help keep the practice working successfully. Many dental assistants elect to specialize and earn certification in a specific area, for example pediatrics. However the majority of assistants perform any duty that they are called upon to fulfill, including:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Prepping patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Sterilizing and preparing instruments for dentists
- Using suction equipment to clear patients’ mouths
- Supplying 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 vary by state, so consult with the Minnesota dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants handling X-ray machines more than likely will need to be licensed and certified. A large number of dental assistants who are either required or choose to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Duties of Dental Hygienists
When contrasting the job of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is undoubtedly 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 supporting the Minnesota practice, work with the patients more on an individual basis. They are typically the first person a patient sees when called from the waiting area. They examine every patient’s gums and teeth and report their results to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Teaching patients about oral hygiene
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
To qualify for licensing in nearly all states, dental hygienists must graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination in addition to passing any state licensure exams. When they have fulfilled these requirements they are considered fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant programs are offered at Minnesota community colleges in addition to trade or vocational schools. The most frequent credential earned is the certificate, which ordinarily takes about 1 year to complete. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they provide a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assisting courses. Due to the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental offices are often required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can take anywhere from two to as long as three years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in virtually every state. They are also offered in Minnesota community colleges and technical schools. 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.
Dental Assistant Online Programs
Choosing an online dental assistant program can be a good option for obtaining your training. Just remember that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be available via your personal computer in the comfort of your Minnesota home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while attending college, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Some may even offer lower tuition rates than their traditional counterparts. And added expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced also. The clinical training can usually be completed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything necessary to get the proper education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this method of education, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist school is the right option for you.
Subjects to Cover With Dental Assistant Colleges
When you have picked the dental specialization and kind of credential you would like to obtain, you can start the process of comparing Minnesota schools and programs. As we discussed at the start of this article, a number of prospective students start by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Maybe they search for several online options as well. Even though these may be significant initial points to consider, there are several additional questions that you should ask of the schools you are looking at in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and final selection of the best dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant College Accredited? There are several good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental assistant school. 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 instruction you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Minnesota frequently prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, often they are not available for non-accredited Minnesota programs.
Is The Appropriate Dental Program Offered? You can elect to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make sure that the Minnesota college you select offers the program that you want. For the assistant program, the alternatives are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. If you want to earn a living as a hygienist, a large number of Minnesota dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not common, are offered. However, bear in mind that even if 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 primarily interested in a dental assistant degree, clearly it would not be the right college for you.
Is Adequate Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is a vital part of any dental training program. This applies for the online school options also. Many dental programs have relationships with regional dental offices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the school you choose offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the Minnesota college you choose offers clinical rotation in an area dental practice that specializes in dental treatment for children.
Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental schools you are considering sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal method to receive hands-on, clinical experience in a professional Minnesota dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students form working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Many students that have graduated from dental assistant programs require assistance landing their first job. Check if the colleges you are considering have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Minnesota dental profession in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.
Are Classrooms Smaller? Check with the Minnesota colleges you are reviewing how big on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate environment for learning where students have greater access to the instructors. Conversely, larger classes can be impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If feasible, ask if you can monitor a couple of classes at the school that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the degree of interaction between instructors and students before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental assistant schools can differ in cost dependent on the length 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 have an impact. But besides the tuition there are other significant 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 examining the cost of colleges, don’t forget to add all of the costs related to your education. Most schools have financial assistance offices, so be sure to check out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Minnesota.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental college, you must make sure that the assistant program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while acquiring your education and have to attend classes near your Minnesota home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online school, you will still have to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice is if you should need to miss any classes due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Pick the Best Dental Assistant College in Minnesota
Selecting the ideal dental assistant course is imperative if you intend to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several options offered to obtain your training and it takes a fairly 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 generally earn a Certificate. Dental Assistants usually require roughly 1 year of study prior to entering the work force. When earning a certificate or degree you can elect to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training or credential you decide to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the ideal choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Minnesota.