How to Choose a Dental Assistant Program in Oklahoma
Selecting the right dental assistant school in Oklahoma is an essential initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you must evaluate and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than selecting the training with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the program that is nearest to your home. There are other crucial factors to take into account also, including the program’s reputation and accreditation. Your first step is to decide which of the two specializations you are most interested in receiving training for, which may depend on the amount of money and time that you have to invest. The most typical dental assistant program normally takes about 12 months to complete for a certificate or diploma. However dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to finish. Naturally with the lengthier training of a dental hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these considerations and additional questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are evaluating 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 Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an important part of any Oklahoma dental office and can undertake a wide range of tasks. Their primary job description is to provide assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice working efficiently. Many dental assistants choose to specialize and obtain certification in a particular area, for example pediatrics. However most assistants carry out any job that they are called upon to fulfill, such as:
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Readying patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Sterilizing and preparing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Prepping X-ray machines and handling X-rays
- Ordering office and dental supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so check with the Oklahoma dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines more than likely will need to be certified and licensed. Most dental assistants who are either required or choose to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Duties of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the duties of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the main difference is undoubtedly 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 supporting the Oklahoma practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are typically the initial person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s gums and teeth and present their findings to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Teaching patients regarding oral hygiene
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
To qualify for licensing in nearly 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 Exam in addition to passing any state licensure examinations. After they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant courses are available at Oklahoma community colleges as well as vocational or technical schools. The most frequent credential attained is the certificate, which ordinarily takes about 1 year to finish. There are less Associate Degree programs available, and they furnish a more expansive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant classes. As a result of the added responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed 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 almost every state. They are also offered in Oklahoma vocational schools and community colleges. Regardless of whether you are pursuing training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical aspect to the training also. Some programs also offer internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Assistant Schools
Selecting an online dental assistant program can be a good alternative for getting your training. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical component to your training. But the balance of your classes will be available via your personal computer in the convenience of your Oklahoma home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending school, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Some may even charge lower tuition fees than their on-campus counterparts. And added expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The clinical training can usually be performed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to receive the proper education is provided. If you have the dedication for this mode of learning, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist school is the right option for you.
Points to Cover With Dental Assistant Colleges
After you have picked the dental specialty and type of credential you wish to attain, you can start the procedure of comparing Oklahoma schools and programs. As we covered at the start of this article, many students start by checking out the location and the cost of the colleges. Possibly they look for several online options also. Even though these are significant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to ask of the colleges you are comparing in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have provided a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the right dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of important reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental assistant college. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a prerequisite in virtually all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the education you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Oklahoma often desire or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not provided for non-accredited Oklahoma colleges.
Is The Appropriate Dental Program Offered? You can opt to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just make certain that the Oklahoma college you select offers the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the choices are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. In order to work as a hygienist, most Oklahoma dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, bear 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 strong 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, naturally it would not be the ideal college for you.
Is Enough Practical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is a vital part of every dental training program. This holds true for the online school options as well. Many dental programs have relationships with area dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only important that the college you choose offers sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately want to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the Oklahoma college you choose offers clinical rotation in a local dental office that focuses on dental services for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental colleges you are evaluating have an internship program. Internships are probably the most effective method to obtain hands-on, practical experience in a professional Oklahoma dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students create working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant programs require assistance obtaining their first job. Check if the programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Oklahoma dental profession in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are Classrooms Smaller? Find out from the Oklahoma schools you are reviewing how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally offer a more intimate atmosphere for learning where students have increased access to the instructors. On the other hand, larger classes tend to be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can attend a few classes at the college that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the level of interaction between students and instructors before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental assistant training can vary in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the colleges 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 costs for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when examining the cost of colleges, don’t forget to include all of the expenses associated with your education. The majority of schools have financial aid offices, so make sure to check out what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Oklahoma.
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 have to go to classes near your Oklahoma home at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, you will still need to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up policy is if you should have to miss any classes because of illness, work or family issues.
Select the Right Dental Assistant School in Oklahoma
Enrolling in the ideal dental assistant program is crucial if you intend to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are many alternatives available to obtain your training and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can obtain your formal training through dental programs at junior colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools typically obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants normally require approximately 1 year of study prior to entering the job market. When earning a certificate or degree you can choose to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training or credential you choose to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the best choice. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Oklahoma.