How to Pick a Dental Assistant Training Program in South Carolina
Choosing the right dental assistant college in South Carolina is an essential first step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you must examine and compare your school options. There is much more to doing your due diligence than picking the training with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your residence. There are other important issues to consider also, including the school’s reputation and accreditation. Your initial step is to decide which of the 2 specializations 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 complete for a diploma or certificate. On the other hand dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to accomplish. Obviously with the lengthier training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will cover all of these concerns and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are looking at later in this article. But first, let’s explore the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options offered.
The Role of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an important component of any South Carolina dental practice and can carry out a wide range of duties. Their main job description is to provide assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. Or simply put, to help keep the practice running efficiently. Many dental assistants elect to specialize and receive certification in a particular area, for example periodontics. However the majority of assistants carry out any job that they are called upon to fulfill, such as:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Prepping patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing X-ray machines and handling X-rays
- Purchasing office and dental supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so check with the South Carolina dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines most likely will have to be certified and licensed. Most dental assistants who are either required or choose to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Role of Dental Hygienists
When comparing the job of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is probably that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier mentioned, the dental assistant works with and in support of the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the South Carolina practice, work 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 every patient’s teeth and gums and report their findings to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Educating patients about oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
In order to be licensed in almost 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 licensure examinations. When they have completed these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant courses are provided at South Carolina junior colleges in addition to technical or vocational schools. The most typical credential attained is the certificate, which usually takes about a year to complete. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they furnish a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assisting classes. Due to the additional responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental practices are normally required to have 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 virtually every state. They are also offered in South Carolina vocational schools and community colleges. Regardless of whether you are interested in training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a clinical component to the training as well. Some programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Dental Assistant Online Schools
Choosing an online dental assistant school might be a great option for obtaining your training. Just remember that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be available by means of your desktop computer in the convenience of your South Carolina home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental classes make education far more accessible. Some may even charge lower tuition fees than their on-campus competitors. And added expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The clinical training can often be performed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to receive the proper education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this method of learning, you may find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online school is the best option for you.
Topics to Ask Dental Assistant Programs
After you have decided on the dental specialty and type of credential you would like to earn, you can begin the process of comparing South Carolina programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many students begin by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Perhaps they search for some online alternatives also. Even though these are relevant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to address to the schools you are reviewing in order to make 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 right dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of valid reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental assistant program. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in almost all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the instruction you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in South Carolina often prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And finally, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not offered for non-accredited South Carolina schools.
Is The Appropriate Dental Program Available? You can choose to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just make certain that the South Carolina college you choose 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 South Carolina dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not prevalent, are offered. However, keep in mind that just because 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 may have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are solely interested in a dental assistant degree, naturally it would not be the right college for you.
Is Plenty of Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an essential component of any dental training program. This holds true for the online college options as well. A number of dental colleges have associations with local dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It’s not only important that the college you enroll in offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the South Carolina college you select offers clinical rotation in an area dental practice that focuses on dental care for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental colleges you are looking at have internship programs. Internships are undoubtedly the best method to receive hands-on, clinical experience in a professional South Carolina dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students build working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Many graduating students of dental assistant programs need assistance getting their first job. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the South Carolina dental community in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.
Are Classes Smaller? Ask the South Carolina schools you are interested in how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally provide a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, large classes tend to be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If practical, find out if you can monitor a few classes at the college that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the amount of interaction between teachers and students before enrolling.
What is the Overall Cost of the Program? Dental assistant schools can vary in cost dependent on the length of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools and if they are private or public also have an impact. But along with the tuition there are other substantial expenses 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 comparing the cost of colleges, don’t forget to add all of the costs related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial assistance offices, so make sure to ask what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in South Carolina.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental school, you must make sure that the assistant program furnishes classes that suit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while acquiring your education and need to attend classes near your South Carolina home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online college, you will still need to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up policy is if you should have to miss any classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Ideal Dental Assistant College in South Carolina
Selecting the ideal dental assistant course is crucial if you intend to take the CDA examination or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are a number of alternatives available to receive your training and it takes a fairly short amount 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 receive a Certificate. Dental Assistants generally require approximately one year of study prior to entering the job market. When pursuing 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 provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the ideal choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in South Carolina.