How to Find the Right Dental Assistant Training Program in Utah
Choosing the ideal dental assistant school in Utah is an essential first step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to examine and compare your school options. There is far more to completing your due diligence than choosing the program with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the college that is nearest to your residence. There are other crucial factors to take into account as well, such as the school’s accreditation and reputation. Your initial step is to decide which of the two specializations you are most interested in obtaining training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you are willing to invest. The most common dental assistant program usually takes about 1 year 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 prolonged training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these considerations and additional questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are assessing 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 Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an indispensable part of any Utah dental practice and can undertake a myriad of duties. Their main job description is to give support to the dentists and the administrative staff. In other words, to help keep the practice working efficiently. Some dental assistants elect to specialize and obtain certification in a specific area, for example orthodontics. Even so the majority of assistants perform any job that they are called upon to fulfill, such as:
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Giving 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 Utah dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants working with X-ray machines most likely will have 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 Function of Dental Hygienists
When comparing the duties of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the main difference is probably that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously discussed, the dental assistant works with and in support of the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the Utah practice, work with the patients more on an individual basis. They are usually the initial person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s gums and teeth and report their results to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:
- Removing tartar, stains and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Educating patients about oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
To qualify for licensing in nearly all states, dental hygienists must graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination as well as any state licensure exams. When they have fulfilled these requirements they are deemed fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant & Hygienist Training Options
Dental assistant courses are available at Utah community colleges in addition to technical or vocational schools. The most common credential attained is the certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they furnish a more comprehensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assisting courses. Due to the added responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental offices 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 almost every state. They are also offered in Utah trade schools and community colleges. Regardless of whether you are pursuing training as a dental assistant or hygienist, there will be a practical component to the training as well. Some programs also offer internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Assistant Classes
Enrolling in an online dental assistant school might be a viable option for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your Utah home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental programs make education far more obtainable. Many may even charge lower tuition fees than their traditional competitors. And supplementary expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. The practical training can typically be performed at an area dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything required to receive the proper education is provided. If you have the discipline for this method of education, you may find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online college is the right option for you.
Issues to Cover With Dental Assistant Programs
Once you have decided on the dental specialty and kind of credential you wish to earn, you can start the process of comparing Utah programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students start by checking out the location and the cost of the colleges. Perhaps they search for some online options as well. Even though these may be important initial factors 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 furnished a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and final selection of the right dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental Assistant College Accredited? There are many good reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant program. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, 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 education you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Utah typically prefer or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, often they are not available for non-accredited Utah programs.
Is The Appropriate Dental Program Available? You can decide to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just verify that the Utah college you select has the program that you want. For the assistant program, the alternatives are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. In order to have a career as a hygienist, a large number of Utah dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not common, are offered. However, bear in mind that just because a school has an excellent reputation as well as 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 may 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 best college for you.
Is Adequate Clinical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an essential portion of any dental training program. This holds true for the online college options also. Many dental colleges have associations with local dental offices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the school you select offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you ultimately want to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the Utah college you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a regional dental office that focuses on dental treatment for children.
Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental colleges you are considering have an internship program. Internships are probably the best method to get hands-on, clinical experience in a real Utah dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students develop professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they are attractive on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Many graduating students of dental assistant schools need assistance obtaining their first job. Check if the colleges you are looking at have job placement programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with high job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Utah dental community in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classrooms Small? Check with the Utah colleges you are looking at how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually offer a more intimate setting for training where students have greater access to the instructors. On the other hand, bigger classes can be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask if you can attend a couple of classes at the college that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between instructors and students before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental assistant colleges can fluctuate in cost depending on the length of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools and if they are private or public also come into play. But in addition to 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 examining the cost of schools, remember to include all of the expenses related to your education. Most schools have financial aid departments, so be sure to check out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in Utah.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental school, you must confirm that the assistant program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you continue working while receiving your education and must go to classes near your Utah home at nights or on weekends. And even if you select an online school, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up practice is if you should have to miss any classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Dental Assistant Program in Utah
Picking the ideal dental assistant course is crucial if you intend to take the CDA exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are a number of options offered to acquire your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can acquire your formal training through dental programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these schools normally receive a Certificate. Dental Assistants typically require approximately 1 year of study before they enter the job market. When pursuing a certificate or degree you can elect to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever credential or mode of training you elect to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the right choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to begin your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Utah.