How to Select a Dental Assistant Training Program in Oregon
Selecting the ideal dental assistant training in Oregon is an essential initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to doing your due diligence than picking the college with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the school that is closest to your home. There are other important issues to take into account also, such as the school’s accreditation and reputation. Your first step is to decide which of the 2 specialties you are most interested in getting 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 finish. Obviously with the longer training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will explore all of these issues 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 Duties of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an important component of any Oregon dental practice and can undertake a multitude of tasks. Their principal job description is to provide assistance to the dentists and the administrative staff. Or simply put, to help keep the practice working efficiently. Many dental assistants choose to specialize and receive certification in a specific area, for instance periodontics. Even so the majority of assistants carry out any job that they are asked to complete, for example:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Readying patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Providing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing 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 Oregon dental board for your state’s policies. Assistants working with X-ray machines more than likely will have to be licensed and certified. A large number of dental assistants who are either required or elect to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Job of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the duties 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 dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also assisting the Oregon practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently the initial person a patient sees when called from the waiting area. They examine every patient’s teeth and gums and present their findings to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s duties may include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Teaching patients about oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
To qualify for licensing in nearly 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. When they have completed these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant courses are provided at Oregon junior colleges as well as trade or vocational schools. The most typical credential attained is the certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to complete. There are less Associate Degree programs available, and they provide a more comprehensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. Because of the additional responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental practices are generally required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly every state. They are also offered in Oregon community colleges and technical schools. Whether you are interested in training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a clinical aspect to the training as well. Many programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Dental Assistant Online Programs
Choosing an online dental assistant program might be a good alternative for getting your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be accessible by means of your desktop computer in the comfort of your Oregon home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while attending college, online dental classes make education far more obtainable. Some may even offer lower tuition rates than their on-campus competitors. And additional expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced also. The clinical training can often be completed at an area dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to obtain the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this method of education, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist school is the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Dental Assistant Colleges
When you have decided on the dental specialization and kind of credential you want to attain, you can start the process of comparing Oregon schools and programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many prospective students start by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Maybe they look for some online alternatives also. Although these are important initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the schools you are reviewing in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the best dental hygienist college for you.
Is the Dental Assistant College Accredited? There are a number of important reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant college. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. In order 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 instruction you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Oregon typically prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, frequently they are not offered for non-accredited Oregon colleges.
Is The Right Dental Program Offered? You can choose to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make certain that the Oregon college you select offers 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 work as a hygienist, a large number of Oregon dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are offered. However, keep in mind that even if a school 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 strong accredited dental hygienist program, but might 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 ideal school for you.
Is Sufficient Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is a vital part of every dental training program. This is true for the online college options also. A number of dental programs have relationships with regional dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the school you choose provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, verify that the Oregon program you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local dental practice that specializes in dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental colleges you are exploring have an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective means to obtain hands-on, practical experience in a professional Oregon 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 are attractive on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Most graduating students of dental assistant colleges need assistance getting their first job. Check if the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Oregon dental profession as well as broad networks of contacts where they can position their students for internships or employment.
Are the Classrooms Small? Find out from the Oregon schools you are reviewing how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to provide a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, larger classes can be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If feasible, ask if you can sit in on a couple of classes at the college that you are leaning toward in order to witness first hand the degree of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.
What is the Total Cost of the Program? Dental assistant programs can fluctuate in cost based on the length of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools and if they are public or private also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial costs 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 examining the cost of programs, don’t forget to include all of the costs associated with your education. Most colleges have financial assistance offices, so be sure to find out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Oregon.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental school, you must confirm that the assistant program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while acquiring your education and have to go to classes near your Oregon home at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online school, you will still have to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Pick the Ideal Dental Assistant Program in Oregon
Selecting the right dental assistant program is imperative if you want to take the CDA examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are many alternatives available to acquire your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can acquire your formal education through dental programs at junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these programs normally earn a Certificate. Dental Assistants typically require approximately one year of study before they enter the work force. When pursuing a certificate or degree you can elect to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of training or credential you choose to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the right choice. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Oregon.