How to Enroll In a Dental Assistant School in Rhode Island
Picking the right dental assistant school in Rhode Island is an important initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you must examine and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than picking the school with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your home. There are other important issues to consider also, for instance the college’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 be contingent on the amount of time and money that you have to invest. The most typical dental assistant program usually takes about one year to finish 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 prolonged training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these issues and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are analyzing later in this article. But first, let’s explore the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options provided.
The Role of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an indispensable part of any Rhode Island dental practice and can perform a multitude of duties. Their primary job description is to furnish assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. Or simply put, to help keep the practice operating successfully. Some dental assistants opt to specialize and earn certification in a particular area, such as pediatrics. However the majority of assistants perform any task that they are called upon to complete, such as:
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Prepping patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Preparing and sterilizing instruments for dentists
- Using suction equipment to clear patients’ mouths
- Providing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Ordering office and dental supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants differ by state, so consult with the Rhode Island dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines more than likely will need to be licensed and certified. Most dental assistants who are either required or elect to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Job 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 discussed, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the Rhode Island practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are usually the initial person a patient sees 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. Based on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities may include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Instructing patients regarding oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
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 must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in addition to passing any state licensure exams. Once they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant and Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant courses are provided at Rhode Island community colleges along with technical or vocational schools. The most frequent credential attained is the certificate, which usually takes about 1 year to complete. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they provide a more expansive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assisting classes. Because of the additional responsibility as compared to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental practices are generally required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can take anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly every state. They are also offered in Rhode Island community colleges and technical schools. Regardless of whether you are interested in training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a practical component to the training also. Many programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Dental Assistant Online Programs
Enrolling in an online dental assistant school might be a good option for obtaining your training. Just remember that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be provided by means of your desktop computer in the comfort of your Rhode Island home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while attending college, online dental classes make education much more obtainable. Many may even charge lower tuition fees than their on-campus counterparts. And added expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened also. The practical training can often be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything necessary to receive the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this mode of learning, you may find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist school is the best choice for you.
Topics to Ask Dental Assistant Colleges
When you have decided on the dental specialization and kind of credential you want to obtain, you can begin the procedure of comparing Rhode Island schools and programs. As we discussed at the start of this article, many potential students start by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Maybe they search for several online options as well. Even though these may be significant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the schools you are reviewing in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant College Accredited? There are several valid reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant program. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant examination, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the instruction you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Rhode Island often prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, usually they are not available for non-accredited Rhode Island schools.
Is The Correct Dental Program Offered? You can choose to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just verify that the Rhode Island school you select offers the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the choices are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. If you want to earn a living as a hygienist, many Rhode Island dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not common, are offered. However, bear in mind that even if a school has an exceptional reputation and accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited school may have a solid accredited dental hygienist program, but could have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are only interested in a dental assistant degree, obviously it would not be the ideal college for you.
Is Adequate Practical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a necessary part of every dental training program. This holds true for the online school options also. Most dental programs have partnerships with area dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only important that the college you enroll in provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the Rhode Island school you select offers clinical rotation in a regional dental practice that focuses on dental services for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental schools you are looking at have an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal way to get hands-on, practical experience in a real Rhode Island dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students develop working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Most graduating students of dental assistant programs require help obtaining their first job. Ask if the colleges you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Rhode Island dental profession as well as large networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.
Are Classes Smaller? Find out from the Rhode Island schools you are evaluating how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to offer a more personal environment for learning where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, large classes tend to be impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If practical, find out if you can attend a couple of classes at the college that you are leaning toward in order to experience first hand the level of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.
What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental assistant colleges can vary in cost based on the duration of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools and if they are private or public also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial expenses which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of schools, remember to add all of the costs related to your education. Most colleges have financial aid offices, so be sure to check out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Rhode Island.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental school, you must verify that the assistant program offers classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while getting your education and must go to classes near your Rhode Island home at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online school, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up protocol is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family issues.
Find the Ideal Dental Assistant School in Rhode Island
Selecting the ideal dental assistant course is essential if you want to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are numerous options offered to acquire your training and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can acquire your formal education through dental programs at community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these schools typically obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants typically require roughly one year of study before they enter the work force. When obtaining a certificate or degree you can choose to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of education or credential you elect to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the right selection. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Rhode Island.