How to Find the Right Dental Assistant Training Program in Missouri
Choosing the ideal dental assistant training in Missouri is an essential first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you must evaluate and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than selecting the training with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your residence. There are other important factors to consider as well, such as the school’s reputation and accreditation. Your first step is to decide which of the two specializations you are most interested in getting training for, which may be contingent on the amount of money and time that you are willing to commit. The most common dental assistant program generally 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 2 to 3 years to finish. Naturally with the prolonged training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these concerns and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let’s look at the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options available.
The Duties of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an indispensable part of any Missouri dental practice and can undertake a myriad of tasks. Their main job description is to give assistance to the dentists and the administrative staff. Or simply put, to help keep the practice operating successfully. Many dental assistants opt to specialize and earn certification in a specific area, for instance pediatrics. However the majority of assistants carry out any duty that they are asked to fulfill, including:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Readying patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Sterilizing and preparing instruments for dentists
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Giving 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 deviate by state, so check with the Missouri dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants working with X-ray machines more than likely will need to be licensed and certified. A large number of 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 Function of a Dental Hygienist
When comparing the role of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, 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 practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the Missouri practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are often the initial person a patient sees when called from the waiting area. They examine every patient’s gums and teeth and report 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
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Instructing patients regarding oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
To qualify for licensing 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 Examination in addition to passing any state licensing examinations. When they have fulfilled these requirements they are considered fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant programs are provided at Missouri community colleges along with trade or vocational schools. The most common credential earned is the certificate, which ordinarily 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 assistant classes. Because of the additional responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental offices are generally required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can take anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in almost every state. They are also offered in Missouri trade 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. Many programs also offer internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Assistant Training Programs
Selecting an online dental assistant program can be a great option for getting your training. Just remember that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be available via your personal computer in the convenience of your Missouri home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while attending school, online dental programs make education far more accessible. Some may even offer lower tuition costs than their traditional counterparts. And additional expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. 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 receive the appropriate education is provided. If you have the dedication for this style of learning, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist program is the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Dental Assistant Schools
Once you have decided on the dental specialization and kind of credential you wish to earn, you can begin the process of comparing Missouri programs and schools. As we covered at the start of this article, many prospective students begin by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Possibly they search for some online options as well. Although these are important initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to address to the programs you are comparing in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have supplied a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and final selection of the right dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant Program Accredited? There are several good reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental assistant college. If you are intending to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in nearly all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the education you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Missouri frequently prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not obtainable for non-accredited Missouri schools.
Is The Correct Dental Program Available? You can decide to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just verify that the Missouri school you select has the program that you want. For the assistant program, the choices are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. If you want to work as a hygienist, many Missouri dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not common, are available. However, bear in mind that even if a college has an excellent reputation as well as 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 only interested in a dental assistant degree, clearly it would not be the best school for you.
Is Sufficient Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a necessary part of any dental training program. This applies for the online college options as well. A number of dental programs have relationships with regional dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the college you select provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently want to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the Missouri college you select offers clinical rotation in a regional dental practice that focuses on dental care for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Ask if the dental schools you are evaluating have an internship program. Internships are probably the best way to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a real Missouri dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Many graduating students of dental assistant colleges require help landing their first job. Ask if the programs you are looking at have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Missouri dental profession in addition to large networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are Classrooms Small? Find out from the Missouri programs you are evaluating how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to offer a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the instructors. Conversely, larger classes can be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can attend a couple of classes at the school that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between instructors and students before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental assistant programs can fluctuate in cost depending on the length of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools 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 expenses for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of colleges, remember to include all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of schools have financial assistance departments, so make sure to find out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Missouri.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental school, you need to make sure that the assistant program furnishes classes that fit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while getting your education and have to attend classes near your Missouri home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice is if you should have to miss any classes because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Ideal Dental Assistant College in Missouri
Picking the ideal dental assistant program is crucial if you intend to take the CDA examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are several options available to obtain your training and it takes a relatively 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 usually obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants typically require about one year of study prior to entering the job market. When earning a certificate or degree you can choose to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training or credential you elect to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the ideal selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Missouri.