How to Find the Right Dental Assistant Training Program in New Mexico
Selecting the right dental assistant training in New Mexico is an important first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than selecting the program with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your home. There are other crucial factors to consider also, such as the program’s accreditation and reputation. Your first step is to decide which of the 2 specializations you are most interested in receiving 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 one year to finish for a diploma or certificate. However dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to complete. Obviously with the lengthier training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these concerns and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the dental assistant schools you are looking at later in this article. But first, let’s review the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options provided.
The Job of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an integral component of any New Mexico dental practice and can carry out a wide range of functions. Their fundamental job description is to provide support to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice running efficiently. Many dental assistants opt to specialize and receive certification in a particular area, for instance orthodontics. However the majority of assistants carry out any task that they are asked to complete, including:
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Readying patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Sterilizing and preparing instruments for dentists
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying 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 New Mexico dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants handling X-ray machines most 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) exam offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Job of Dental Hygienists
When comparing the role of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the main difference is probably that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously mentioned, the dental assistant works with and in support of the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the New Mexico practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently the initial person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting area. They examine every patient’s teeth and gums and report their findings to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Teaching patients regarding oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
To qualify for licensing in almost all states, dental hygienists must graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam as well as any state licensing examinations. Once they have fulfilled these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant programs are provided at New Mexico community colleges in addition to vocational or technical schools. The most typical credential acquired is the certificate, which generally takes about a year to complete. There are fewer Associate Degree programs available, and they furnish a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assisting courses. Because of the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental offices are normally required to have 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 New Mexico 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 also. Some programs also sponsor internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Dental Assistant Online Classes
Choosing an online dental assistant program can be a good alternative for receiving your training. Just remember that the classes will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided via your desktop computer in the convenience of your New Mexico home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to school, online dental classes make education far more accessible. Some may even have lower tuition rates than their on-campus counterparts. And supplementary expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The practical training can often be performed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to obtain the proper education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this mode of education, you might find that attending an dental hygienist online school is the best choice for you.
Issues to Ask Dental Assistant Schools
When you have selected the dental specialization and type of credential you wish to attain, you can begin the process of comparing New Mexico schools and programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of students start by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Maybe they look for some online options also. Although these are important initial points to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the colleges you are looking at in order to arrive at an informed decision. To start that process, we have furnished a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental Assistant School Accredited? There are many valid reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental assistant program. If you are intending to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant examination, your dental program 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 New Mexico frequently prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not obtainable for non-accredited New Mexico programs.
Is The Appropriate Dental Program Offered? You can decide to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just confirm that the New Mexico school you decide on offers the program that you want. For the assistant program, the options are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. In order to work as a hygienist, many New Mexico dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, keep in mind that just because a college has an excellent reputation and accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a solid accredited dental hygienist program, but might have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are primarily interested in a dental assistant degree, naturally it would not be the best college for you.
Is Sufficient Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a necessary part of every dental training program. This applies for the online school options as well. Most dental colleges have relationships with area dental practices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the school you enroll in provides enough clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently want to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the New Mexico school you select offers clinical rotation in a local dental practice that focuses on dental care for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Ask if the dental schools you are looking at have internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective means to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a real New Mexico 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 as well.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant schools need help getting their first job. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the New Mexico dental community as well as broad networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classes Smaller? Check with the New Mexico colleges you are interested in how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally offer a more personal setting for training where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, large classes can be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can attend a couple of classes at the college that you are most interested in so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental assistant programs can differ in cost based on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also come into play. But along with the tuition there are other significant costs 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 analyzing the cost of colleges, don’t forget to add all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of schools have financial aid departments, so be sure to check out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in New Mexico.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental school, you must confirm that the assistant program offers classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while acquiring your education and have to go to classes near your New Mexico home at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online college, you will still have to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up practice is if you should have to miss any classes due to illness, work or family issues.
Select the Right Dental Assistant School in New Mexico
Picking the ideal dental assistant program is important if you want to take the CDA examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several alternatives offered to acquire your education and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can receive your formal training through dental programs at community colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these schools normally earn a Certificate. Dental Assistants usually require approximately 1 year of study before they enter the job market. When earning 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 addressing the questions presented in this article you will be better prepared to make the best choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in New Mexico.