How to Find the Right Dental Assistant College in Montana
Selecting the right dental assistant college in Montana is an important first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than choosing the training with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other crucial factors to consider also, such as the college’s reputation and accreditation. Your first step is to decide which of the 2 specialties you are most interested in receiving training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you are willing to commit. The most typical dental assistant program normally takes about one 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 complete. Obviously with the longer training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these concerns and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental assistant schools you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let’s review the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options offered.
The Role of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an indispensable component of any Montana dental practice and can perform a variety of functions. Their main job description is to furnish assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice working successfully. Some dental assistants choose to specialize and obtain certification in a particular area, for instance orthodontics. However the majority of assistants perform any duty that they are asked to complete, including:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Readying patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Sterilizing and preparing instruments for dentists
- Using suction equipment to clear patients’ mouths
- Giving instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying X-ray machines and handling X-rays
- Purchasing office and dental supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants differ by state, so check with the Montana 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 decide to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Role of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the role of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is probably that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier discussed, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also assisting the Montana practice, work with the patients more on an individual basis. They are typically the initial person a patient encounters when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient’s gums and teeth and report their findings to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s duties may include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Educating patients about oral hygiene
- 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 also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination as well as any state licensure exams. After they have completed these requirements they are considered fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant and Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant programs are available at Montana community colleges as well as trade or vocational schools. The most typical credential acquired is the certificate, which usually takes about 1 year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs available, and they provide a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant classes. Due to the additional responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental practices are often required to have 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 almost every state. They are also offered in Montana community colleges and technical schools. Whether you are pursuing training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a clinical component to the training also. A number of programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Assistant Training Programs
Selecting an online dental assistant program can be a viable alternative for obtaining your education. Just remember that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be provided by means of your desktop computer in the convenience of your Montana home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while attending college, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Many may even charge lower tuition fees than their traditional competitors. And supplementary 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 required to get the proper education is provided. If you have the discipline for this method of learning, you may find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online college is the right option for you.
Subjects to Cover With Dental Assistant Schools
Once you have decided on the dental specialty and kind of credential you want to earn, you can start the procedure of comparing Montana schools and programs. As we covered at the start of this article, a number of potential students start by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Perhaps they look for several online alternatives as well. Even though these are significant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you need to ask of 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 a number of good reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental assistant college. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in almost all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant examination, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the instruction you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Montana often prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not provided for non-accredited Montana schools.
Is The Right Dental Program Available? You can opt to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make certain that the Montana school you choose has the program that you want. For the assistant program, the alternatives are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. In order to earn a living as a hygienist, the majority of Montana dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are offered. However, bear in mind that even if a college has an excellent reputation as well as accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a strong accredited dental hygienist program, but may have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are just interested in a dental assistant degree, naturally it would not be the best school for you.
Is Enough Practical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is an important component of any dental training program. This is true for the online school options also. Most dental programs have partnerships with regional dental practices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the school you select offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently want to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the Montana college you choose offers clinical rotation in a regional dental office that focuses on dental services for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental schools you are looking at have an internship program. Internships are probably the ideal way to receive hands-on, practical experience in a real Montana 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 also.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Many graduating students of dental assistant programs require help getting their first job. Check if the colleges you are considering have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Montana dental community in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classes Small? Find out from the Montana colleges you are interested in how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes generally offer a more personal atmosphere for training where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, larger classes often are impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If practical, ask if you can attend a few classes at the college that you are leaning toward so that you can experience first hand the level of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.
What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental assistant programs can vary in cost dependent on the length of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the colleges and whether they are private or public also have an impact. But along with the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include costs for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of programs, don’t forget to include all of the expenses associated with your education. The majority of schools have financial aid departments, so make sure to check out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Montana.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental college, you must confirm that the assistant program provides classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while acquiring your education and must attend classes near your Montana home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online program, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up procedure is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Ideal Dental Assistant School in Montana
Choosing the right dental assistant course is imperative if you intend to take the CDA examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are many alternatives available to obtain your education and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can obtain your formal training through dental programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these programs typically obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants typically require about 1 year of study prior to entering the work force. When pursuing a certificate or degree you can choose to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of education or credential you choose to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the best selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Montana.