How to Find the Right Dental Assistant Program in New Jersey
Choosing the right dental assistant program in New Jersey is an essential first step toward starting 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 selecting the program with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your residence. There are other significant factors to consider as well, for instance the program’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 have to commit. The most typical dental assistant program usually takes about 12 months to finish for a certificate or diploma. Meanwhile dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to accomplish. Naturally with the more extensive training of a dental hygienist comes more cost. We will talk about all of these concerns 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 available.
The Function of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an integral part of any New Jersey dental practice and can carry out a wide range of functions. Their main job description is to provide assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. 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, such as orthodontics. However the majority of assistants carry out any job that they are called upon to fulfill, including:
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Readying patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Preparing and sterilizing instruments for dentists
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Providing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Purchasing office and dental supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants differ by state, so check with the New Jersey dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants handling X-ray machines most likely will need to be certified and licensed. Many dental assistants who are either required or decide to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Duties of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the role of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the biggest difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier discussed, the dental assistant works with and in support of the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the New Jersey practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are frequently the initial person a patient encounters when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s gums and teeth and report their results to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s duties may include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Teaching patients regarding oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
In order to be licensed in nearly 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 Exam in addition to passing any state licensing exams. Once they have completed these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant and Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant courses are available at New Jersey junior colleges in addition to vocational or technical schools. The most typical credential acquired is the certificate, which usually takes about a year to complete. There are less Associate Degree programs available, and they furnish a more comprehensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. Due to the increased responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental offices are normally required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from two to as long as three years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly every state. They are also offered in New Jersey community colleges and technical schools. 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 dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Assistant Training Programs
Selecting an online dental assistant college may be a great option for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your New Jersey home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those working while attending school, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Some may even charge lower tuition costs than their traditional competitors. And added expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The practical training can often be performed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to obtain the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this mode of learning, you might find that attending an online dental hygienist college is the best choice for you.
What to Ask Dental Assistant Colleges
Once you have selected the dental specialization and type of credential you would like to attain, you can start the procedure of comparing New Jersey programs and schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, many students begin by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Possibly they search for several online alternatives as well. Although these may be significant initial considerations, there are several additional questions that you need to ask of the colleges you are comparing in order to arrive at an informed decision. To start that process, we have supplied a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the right dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental Assistant School Accredited? There are several valid reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental assistant college. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in nearly all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the education you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in New Jersey frequently prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not provided for non-accredited New Jersey programs.
Is The Proper Dental Program Available? You can decide to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just make sure that the New Jersey college you decide on has 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, the majority of New Jersey dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not common, are available. However, keep in mind that just because a school has a good reputation and 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 might 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 ideal school for you.
Is Adequate Practical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is an essential part of every dental training program. This holds true for the online school options also. A number of dental colleges have relationships with regional dental offices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only important that the program you choose offers enough clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately want to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the New Jersey college you select offers clinical rotation in a local dental office that specializes in dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental programs you are looking at have internship programs. Internships are probably the ideal method to obtain hands-on, practical experience in a professional New Jersey dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students create professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant schools need help getting their first job. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the New Jersey dental community as well as broad networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.
Are Classes Small? Find out from the New Jersey colleges you are looking at how large on average their classes are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the instructors. Conversely, large classes can be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can attend a couple of classes at the college that you are leaning toward in order to experience first hand the amount of interaction between teachers and students before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental assistant colleges can fluctuate in cost dependent on the length of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also come into play. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of colleges, don’t forget to include all of the expenses associated with your education. Most colleges have financial aid departments, so make sure to find out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in New Jersey.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental school, you must verify that the assistant program provides classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while acquiring your education and must go to classes near your New Jersey 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 addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes due to illness, work or family issues.
Select the Best Dental Assistant Program in New Jersey
Selecting the right dental assistant course is crucial if you wish to take the CDA exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are many alternatives offered to acquire your education and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can acquire your formal training through dental programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools generally obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants typically require about one year of study prior to entering the job market. When pursuing a certificate or degree you can elect to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of education or credential you decide to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the right choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in New Jersey.