How to Find the Right Dental Assistant College in Tennessee
Picking the right dental assistant training in Tennessee is an important initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you must assess and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than selecting the school with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the school that is nearest to your residence. There are other crucial issues to consider as well, such as the school’s accreditation and reputation. Your first step is to decide which of the two specializations you are most interested in getting training for, which may be contingent on the amount of time and money that you have to commit. The most typical dental assistant program usually takes about 12 months to complete for a certificate or diploma. Meanwhile dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to complete. Obviously with the lengthier training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these concerns and additional questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are looking at later in this article. But first, let’s look at the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options provided.
The Duties of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an indispensable component of any Tennessee dental office and can perform a myriad of duties. Their primary job description is to provide assistance to the dentists and the administrative staff. Or simply put, to help keep the practice operating efficiently. Many dental assistants choose to specialize and acquire certification in a specific area, such as periodontics. However the majority of assistants perform any task that they are called upon to fulfill, including:
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Prepping patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
- Using suction equipment to clear patients’ mouths
- Handing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Purchasing dental and office supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so check with the Tennessee dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants working with X-ray machines more than likely will need to be licensed and certified. Many 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 Duties of Dental Hygienists
When contrasting the job of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the biggest difference is undoubtedly 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 Tennessee 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 area. 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 tartar, stains and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Educating patients about oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
In order to be licensed in nearly 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 Examination in addition to passing any state licensing exams. After they have fulfilled these requirements they are regarded as fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant and Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant courses are offered at Tennessee community colleges in addition to trade or vocational schools. The most typical credential acquired is the certificate, which ordinarily 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 assistant classes. Due to the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental practices are often required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from two to as long as three years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in virtually every state. They are also offered in Tennessee community colleges and technical schools. Whether you are pursuing training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a clinical component to the training as well. A number of programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Assistant Classes
Choosing an online dental assistant program may be a viable option for receiving your training. Just keep in mind that the program will not be totally online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be available via your desktop computer in the comfort of your Tennessee 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. Many may even have lower tuition rates than their traditional competitors. And added expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened as well. The practical training can usually be performed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to obtain the appropriate education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this method of education, you may find that attending an dental hygienist online program is the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Dental Assistant Colleges
Once you have picked the dental specialization and kind of credential you want to attain, you can start the process of comparing Tennessee programs and schools. As we covered at the start of this article, a number of potential students start by checking out the location and the cost of the colleges. Perhaps they search for some online options as well. Although these may be significant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to address to the programs you are comparing in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental assistant program. If you are going to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a requirement in virtually all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant examination, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Tennessee frequently prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, often they are not obtainable for non-accredited Tennessee colleges.
Is The Proper Dental Program Available? You can choose to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just confirm that the Tennessee school you choose offers the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the alternatives are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. In order to work as a hygienist, most Tennessee dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not common, are offered. However, bear in mind that just because a college has an exceptional reputation as well as accreditation does not mean each one 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 primarily interested in a dental assistant degree, naturally it would not be the ideal college for you.
Is Sufficient Clinical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is a necessary portion of every dental training program. This applies for the online college options as well. Many dental colleges have partnerships with regional dental offices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the school you enroll in provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you ultimately want to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the Tennessee school you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a local dental practice that focuses on dental treatment for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Ask if the dental schools you are exploring sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the best way to get hands-on, practical experience in a professional Tennessee dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students form working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Many students that have graduated from dental assistant programs require help landing their first job. Ask if the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Tennessee dental profession as well as broad networks of contacts where they can position their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classrooms Small? Ask the Tennessee schools you are looking at how big on average their classes are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate atmosphere for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. Conversely, bigger classes often are impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can attend a couple of classes at the school that you are leaning toward in order to witness first hand the amount of interaction between teachers and students before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental assistant schools can vary in cost based on the length of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other significant expenses which can add up. They can include costs for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when comparing the cost of schools, remember to include all of the expenses related to your education. The majority of schools have financial aid departments, so make sure to ask what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Tennessee.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental college, you must verify that the assistant program offers classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while receiving your education and must attend classes near your Tennessee home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online college, you will still need to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up policy is if you should have to miss any classes because of work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Best Dental Assistant Program in Tennessee
Picking the right dental assistant course is essential if you want to take the CDA exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are numerous alternatives available to obtain 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 generally earn a Certificate. Dental Assistants generally require approximately 1 year of study before they enter the job market. When pursuing a certificate or degree you can elect to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever credential or mode of training you decide to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the ideal selection. And as a result, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Tennessee.