How to Enroll In a Dental Assistant School in Mississippi
Selecting the ideal dental assistant school in Mississippi is an important initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to examine and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than selecting the school with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the school that is nearest to your residence. There are other important factors to consider as well, for instance the program’s accreditation and reputation. 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 have to invest. The most common dental assistant program normally takes about 12 months to complete for a diploma or certificate. On the other hand dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to finish. Naturally with the longer training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will explore all of these concerns and additional questions that you should 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 offered.
The Function of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an important part of any Mississippi dental practice and can carry out a multitude of tasks. Their fundamental job description is to furnish support to the dentists and the administrative staff. In other words, to help keep the practice operating efficiently. Some dental assistants opt to specialize and earn certification in a specific area, for example pediatrics. Even so most assistants carry out any task that they are called upon to complete, such as:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Providing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Ordering dental and office supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants differ by state, so check with the Mississippi dental board for your state’s policies. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines more than likely will have to be licensed and certified. Most 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 Function of a Dental Hygienist
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 discussed, the dental assistant works with and in support of the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the Mississippi practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are typically the initial person a patient sees when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s teeth and gums and report their findings to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities may include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Educating patients regarding 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 graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in addition to passing any state licensure examinations. After they have completed these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant programs are available at Mississippi junior colleges as well as technical or vocational schools. The most frequent credential earned is the certificate, which usually takes about 1 year to complete. There are fewer Associate Degree programs available, and they provide a more extensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assisting courses. As a result of the added responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working 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 nearly every state. They are also offered in Mississippi vocational schools and community colleges. Regardless of whether you are pursuing training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a clinical aspect to the training as well. A number of programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Dental Assistant Online Training
Enrolling in an online dental assistant college might be a great alternative for getting your training. Just remember that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be available by means of your desktop computer in the convenience of your Mississippi home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those working while attending college, online dental programs make education a lot more obtainable. Many may even have lower tuition fees than their on-campus competitors. And additional expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened also. The practical training can usually be completed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to obtain the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this style of education, you may find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist program is the right option for you.
Issues to Ask Dental Assistant Schools
Once you have selected the dental specialty and type of credential you wish to obtain, you can start the procedure of comparing Mississippi schools and programs. As we discussed at the start of this article, many potential students begin by looking at the cost and the location of the schools. Perhaps they look for several online options as well. Even though these are important initial points to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to ask of the programs you are looking at in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished 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 Program Accredited? There are several valid reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental assistant school. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in virtually all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the instruction you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Mississippi frequently prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not available for non-accredited Mississippi programs.
Is The Appropriate Dental Program Available? You can decide to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just confirm that the Mississippi school you select offers the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the alternatives are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. In order to have a career as a hygienist, most Mississippi dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, keep in mind that even if a college has an excellent reputation and accreditation does not mean each one 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 primarily interested in a dental assistant degree, clearly it would not be the right college for you.
Is Enough Practical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a vital component of any dental training program. This applies for the online school options also. A number of dental programs have partnerships with local dental practices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the program you enroll in provides enough clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the Mississippi school you select offers clinical rotation in a regional dental practice that focuses on dental services for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental colleges you are looking at have internship programs. Internships are probably the best method to receive hands-on, practical experience in a real Mississippi 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 are attractive on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Most graduating students of dental assistant colleges need help getting their first job. Find out if the schools 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 Mississippi dental community as well as extensive networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classes Smaller? Find out from the Mississippi colleges you are interested in how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes generally offer a more intimate setting for training where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, bigger classes often are impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, ask if you can sit in on a few classes at the school that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the degree of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.
What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental assistant colleges can vary in cost depending on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools and whether they are private or public also come into play. But besides 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 examining the cost of colleges, remember to include all of the costs associated with your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid offices, so be sure to check out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Mississippi.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental college, you must make sure that the assistant program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while acquiring your education and must go to classes near your Mississippi home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online college, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice is if you should have to miss any classes due to work, illness or family issues.
Choose the Right Dental Assistant School in Mississippi
Choosing the ideal dental assistant course is important if you want to take the CDA examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are many options available to receive your training and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can receive your formal training through dental programs at junior colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these programs typically earn a Certificate. Dental Assistants usually require approximately 1 year of study before they enter the job market. When obtaining a certificate or degree you can elect to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training or credential you elect to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the appropriate selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Mississippi.