How to Enroll In a Dental Assistant School in South Dakota
Picking the ideal dental assistant school in South Dakota is an important initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you must evaluate 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 residence. There are other significant factors to consider also, including the school’s reputation and accreditation. Your first step is to decide which of the two specialties you are most interested in getting training for, which may depend on the amount of money and time that you have to commit. The most typical dental assistant program generally takes about one year to finish for a certificate or diploma. However dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to complete. Naturally with the more extensive training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will explore all of these factors and supplemental questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let’s explore the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options available.
The Job of Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an indispensable component of any South Dakota dental office and can perform a wide range of duties. Their fundamental job description is to furnish support to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice working successfully. Many dental assistants choose to specialize and earn certification in a particular area, for instance pediatrics. Even so most assistants carry out any job that they are asked to fulfill, including:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Giving instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying X-ray machines and handling X-rays
- Ordering office and dental supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants differ by state, so consult with the South Dakota dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants working with X-ray machines most 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 comparing the job 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 supporting the South Dakota practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are often the first person a patient encounters when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient’s gums and teeth and report their results to the dentists. They may also carry out basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities may include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Instructing patients about oral hygiene
- Taking and developing X-rays
- 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 must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination as well as any state licensure exams. Once they have fulfilled these requirements they are considered fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant programs are offered at South Dakota community colleges along with vocational or technical schools. The most common credential attained is the certificate, which usually takes about one year to complete. There are less Associate Degree programs available, and they furnish a more comprehensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. As a result of the added 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 two to as long as three years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly every state. They are also offered in South Dakota vocational schools and community colleges. Whether you are interested in training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a practical component to the training as well. A number of programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Dental Assistant Online Colleges
Selecting an online dental assistant school can be a good alternative for receiving your education. Just remember that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be provided by means of your desktop computer in the comfort of your South Dakota home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to school, online dental programs make education a lot more accessible. Many may even offer lower tuition costs than their on-campus competitors. And supplementary expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced also. The practical training can usually be completed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to obtain the appropriate education is provided. If you have the discipline for this style of learning, you might find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist program is the right choice for you.
Topics to Cover With Dental Assistant Schools
Once you have selected the dental specialty and kind of credential you want to obtain, you can begin the procedure of comparing South Dakota programs and schools. As we discussed at the start of this article, many potential students start by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Possibly they search for several online options as well. Although these are relevant initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you should ask of the programs you are reviewing in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, we have provided a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and ultimate selection of the ideal dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant Program Accredited? There are several good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental assistant college. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in nearly 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 guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in South Dakota typically prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, often they are not offered for non-accredited South Dakota programs.
Is The Correct Dental Program Available? You can decide to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just confirm that the South Dakota college you decide on offers the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the alternatives are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. If you want to have a career as a hygienist, many South Dakota dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, keep in mind that just because a school has a good reputation as well as accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited school may have a strong accredited dental hygienist program, but might have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are solely interested in a dental assistant degree, obviously it would not be the right school for you.
Is Sufficient Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is an important component of any dental training program. This applies for the online school options as well. A number of dental programs have relationships with area dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the program you select provides sufficient clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately would like to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the South Dakota school you choose offers clinical rotation in a local dental practice that focuses on dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental schools you are considering have an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective way to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a professional South Dakota dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes as well.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant colleges need assistance obtaining their first job. Find out if the schools you are researching have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Schools with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the South Dakota dental community in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classrooms Smaller? Check with the South Dakota programs you are reviewing how large on average their classes are. The smaller classes generally offer a more personal environment for learning where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, larger classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can monitor a few classes at the college that you are leaning toward so that you can experience first hand the degree of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.
What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental assistant schools can vary in cost based on the length of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the colleges and if they are public or private also come into play. But along with 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 equipment, materials and supplies. So when examining the cost of programs, don’t forget to add all of the costs associated with your education. The majority of schools have financial assistance departments, so be sure to ask what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in South Dakota.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental college, you must verify that the assistant program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while getting your education and need to attend classes near your South Dakota home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online program, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up practice is if you should need to miss any classes because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Pick the Ideal Dental Assistant School in South Dakota
Enrolling in the right dental assistant program is imperative if you intend to take the CDA examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are many alternatives available to obtain your training and it takes a fairly short amount of time to become a dental assistant. You can obtain your formal education through dental programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs typically receive a Certificate. Dental Assistants usually require about 1 year of study prior to entering the job market. When obtaining 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 addressing the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the best choice. And as a result, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in South Dakota.