How to Enroll In a Dental Assistant Training Program in Texas
Selecting the ideal dental assistant school in Texas is an important first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than choosing the college with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your residence. There are other significant factors to take into account as well, including the program’s reputation and accreditation. Your initial step is to decide which of the two specializations you are most interested in receiving 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 12 months to finish for a certificate or diploma. On the other hand 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 cost. We will explore all of these concerns and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental assistant schools you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let’s look at the duties of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options available.
The Role of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an essential component of any Texas dental practice and can carry out a variety of functions. Their principal job description is to provide support to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice operating efficiently. Some dental assistants opt to specialize and earn certification in a specific area, for instance periodontics. However most assistants carry out any duty 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
- Supplying instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Purchasing office and dental supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so check with the Texas dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines more than likely will need to be certified and licensed. A large number of dental assistants who are either required or decide to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Function of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the role of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier mentioned, the dental assistant works with and assists the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also assisting the Texas practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently 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 also may carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s duties may include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Polishing teeth and applying sealants
- Educating patients regarding oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
To qualify for licensing 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 Exam in addition to passing any state licensing examinations. After they have completed these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant and Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant courses are provided at Texas community colleges along with trade or vocational schools. The most typical credential acquired is the certificate, which usually takes about 1 year to finish. 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 added responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental offices are usually required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can take anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in virtually every state. They are also offered in Texas 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 as well. Many programs also offer internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Assistant Training Programs
Choosing an online dental assistant college might be a viable alternative for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be completely online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be accessible by means of your personal computer in the convenience of your Texas home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to college, online dental programs make education a lot more obtainable. Some may even have lower tuition fees than their traditional counterparts. And additional expenses for items like commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened as well. The practical training can typically be performed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything required to receive the appropriate education is provided. If you have the discipline for this mode of learning, you may find that enrolling in an online dental hygienist program is the best option for you.
What to Cover With Dental Assistant Colleges
When you have decided on the dental specialization and kind of credential you want to attain, you can start the procedure of comparing Texas programs and schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of students start by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Maybe they look for several online options as well. Even though these are important initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should address to the programs you are reviewing in order to make an informed decision. Toward that end, we have supplied a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the best dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant College Accredited? There are a number of important reasons why you should only select an accredited dental assistant school. If you are planning to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a prerequisite in nearly all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental college must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps guarantee that the instruction you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Texas 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, usually they are not offered for non-accredited Texas colleges.
Is The Proper Dental Program Offered? You can elect to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just confirm that the Texas college 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. In order to earn a living as a hygienist, most Texas dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, bear in mind that just because a college has an excellent reputation and accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a solid 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, obviously it would not be the ideal college for you.
Is Enough Clinical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an essential component of any dental training program. This is true for the online school options as well. Most dental colleges have partnerships with regional dental offices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It’s not only important that the school you enroll in 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 have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the Texas school you choose offers clinical rotation in a regional dental office that specializes in dental services for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Find out if the dental schools you are evaluating sponsor internship programs. Internships are probably the most effective method to get hands-on, clinical experience in a professional Texas 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 look good on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant programs require assistance obtaining their first job. Find out if the programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Texas dental community in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.
Are Classrooms Smaller? Ask the Texas colleges you are looking at how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally provide a more personal setting for learning where students have increased access to the teachers. On the other hand, larger classes can be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, find out if you can sit in on a few classes at the school that you are most interested in in order to experience first hand the amount of interaction between instructors and students before enrolling.
What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental assistant colleges can vary in cost dependent on the duration of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools and whether they are public or private 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 equipment, materials and supplies. So when examining the cost of schools, remember to include all of the costs associated with your education. Most colleges have financial aid offices, so make sure to ask what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Texas.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental college, you must verify that the assistant program provides classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while getting your education and need to go to classes near your Texas home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you select an online program, you will still be required to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up policy is if you should need to miss any classes due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Dental Assistant College in Texas
Selecting the right dental assistant course is crucial if you want to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are numerous options offered to receive your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can obtain your formal training through dental programs at junior colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools normally earn a Certificate. Dental Assistants normally require about one year of study prior to entering the job market. When earning a certificate or degree you can choose to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever credential or mode of training you decide to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the right choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Texas.