How to Choose a Dental Assistant College in Vermont
Choosing the right dental assistant program in Vermont is an essential initial step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your choice, you need to assess and compare your school options. There is much more to performing your due diligence than choosing the college with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your home. There are other crucial factors to consider also, including the program’s accreditation and reputation. Your initial step is to decide which of the 2 specialties you are most interested in obtaining training for, which may be contingent on the amount of money and time that you have to invest. The most common dental assistant program usually takes about 1 year to finish for a diploma or certificate. Meanwhile dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to accomplish. Obviously with the lengthier training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will talk about all of these issues 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 Function of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an indispensable part of any Vermont dental practice and can undertake a variety of duties. Their fundamental job description is to furnish assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice running efficiently. Many dental assistants opt to specialize and obtain certification in a particular area, for instance orthodontics. Even so most assistants perform any duty that they are asked to complete, for example:
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth treatments and cleanings
- Preparing and sterilizing instruments for dentists
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Giving instruments to dentists during procedures
- Prepping X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Ordering office and dental supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants differ by state, so check with the Vermont dental board for your state’s policies. Assistants working with X-ray machines most likely will have to be licensed and certified. Most dental assistants who are either required or decide to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Function of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the duties of a dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is probably that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously mentioned, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the Vermont practice, deal with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently the initial person a patient interacts with when called from the waiting room. They examine each patient’s teeth and gums and report their findings to the dentists. They also may perform basic procedures. Based 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 and developing X-rays
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
In order to be licensed 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 completed these requirements they are regarded as 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 available at Vermont junior colleges in addition to technical or vocational schools. The most common credential attained is the certificate, which generally takes about a year to complete. There are less Associate Degree programs available, and they provide a more comprehensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assisting courses. As a result of the added responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental offices are normally 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 almost every state. They are also offered in Vermont trade schools and community colleges. Whether you are pursuing 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 dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Assistant Training Programs
Selecting an online dental assistant school can be a good option for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a practical component to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be available via your personal computer in the convenience of your Vermont home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those working while going to college, online dental programs make education much more obtainable. Some may even have lower tuition costs than their traditional competitors. And additional expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened also. The practical training can typically be completed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to obtain the appropriate education is provided. If you have the discipline for this method of education, you might find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online school is the best option for you.
What to Ask Dental Assistant Colleges
After you have picked the dental specialization and type of credential you want to earn, you can start the process of comparing Vermont schools and programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of potential students start by checking out the cost and the location of the colleges. Maybe they look for some online alternatives as well. Although these may be 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 arrive at an informed decision. To start that process, we have provided a list of questions to help you with your evaluation and final selection of the right dental hygienist program for you.
Is the Dental Assistant College Accredited? There are many valid reasons why you should only choose an accredited dental assistant program. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant examination, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the education you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Employers in Vermont often desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not offered for non-accredited Vermont colleges.
Is The Appropriate Dental Program Available? You can elect to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just make certain that the Vermont college you decide on offers the program that you want. For the assistant program, the choices are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. If you want to work as a hygienist, most Vermont dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, are available. However, keep in mind that just because a college 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 strong accredited dental hygienist program, but could have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are only interested in a dental assistant degree, clearly it would not be the best college for you.
Is Sufficient Practical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is a vital part of any dental training program. This is true for the online school options as well. Many dental programs have partnerships with local dental offices and clinics that provide clinical training for their students. It’s not only important that the program you enroll in offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. As an example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the Vermont college you enroll in offers clinical rotation in a regional dental practice that specializes in dental services for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental programs you are evaluating have an internship program. Internships are probably the best means to get hands-on, practical experience in a professional Vermont dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students develop working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant programs require help obtaining their first job. Find out if the programs you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Vermont dental profession as well as broad networks of contacts where they can refer their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classrooms Small? Check with the Vermont schools you are reviewing how big typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to offer a more personal environment for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, bigger classes tend to be impersonal and offer little one-on-one instruction. If feasible, ask 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 degree of interaction between instructors and students before enrolling.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental assistant schools can vary in cost depending on the duration of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other factors, for example the reputations of the colleges and if they are private or public also come into play. But besides the tuition there are other significant costs which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as textbooks and commuting as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when comparing the cost of schools, don’t forget to add all of the costs related to your education. The majority of colleges have financial aid departments, so be sure to find out what is offered as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Vermont.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before selecting a dental college, you need to confirm that the assistant program furnishes classes that fit your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while receiving your education and have to attend classes near your Vermont home in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you choose an online school, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up policy is if you should have to miss any classes due to work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Dental Assistant Program in Vermont
Enrolling in the ideal dental assistant course is crucial if you intend to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are numerous options available to acquire your education and it takes a fairly 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 programs usually obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants generally require about 1 year of study before they enter the job market. When pursuing a certificate or degree you can choose to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of education or credential you choose to pursue, by asking the questions provided in this article you will be better prepared to make the right selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Vermont.