How to Choose a Dental Assistant School in West Virginia
Selecting the ideal dental assistant training in West Virginia is an essential initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you must analyze and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than picking the school with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the school that is nearest to your residence. There are other crucial factors to consider as well, including the program’s accreditation and reputation. Your initial step is to decide which of the 2 specializations you are most interested in obtaining training for, which may depend on the amount of money and time that you have to invest. The most common dental assistant program normally takes about one year to complete 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 lengthier training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will discuss all of these factors and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental assistant schools you are evaluating 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 Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are an essential part of any West Virginia dental practice and can undertake a wide range of tasks. Their main job description is to furnish assistance 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 particular area, such as pediatrics. Even so the majority of assistants perform any task that they are asked to complete, for example:
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Preparing patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Preparing and sterilizing instruments for dentists
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Giving instruments to dentists during procedures
- Preparing X-ray machines and handling X-rays
- Purchasing dental and office supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so consult with the West Virginia dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines most likely will have to be certified and licensed. Most dental assistants who are either required or opt to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Duties of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the role of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the main difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As previously discussed, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also assisting the West Virginia practice, work with the patients more on an individual basis. They are typically the first person a patient sees when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s teeth and gums and present their results to the dentists. They may also carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s duties can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Administering fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Teaching patients about oral care
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Applying fillings and removing sutures
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 Exam as well as any state licensing examinations. Once they have completed these requirements they are considered fully licensed and may add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Assistant and Hygienist Education Options
Dental assistant courses are offered at West Virginia junior colleges in addition to technical or vocational schools. The most frequent credential acquired is the certificate, which usually takes about one year to finish. There are less Associate Degree programs offered, and they provide a more expansive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assisting classes. As a result of the added responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental offices are often required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can take anywhere from two to as long as three years to complete and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly every state. They are also offered in West Virginia vocational 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. A number of programs also sponsor internships with local dental practices or dentists.
Online Dental Assistant Classes
Selecting an online dental assistant program might be a viable option for receiving your training. Just remember that the program will not be completely online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be available via your personal computer in the comfort of your West Virginia home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental classes make education far more accessible. Many may even offer lower tuition fees than their traditional counterparts. And added expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be reduced as well. The clinical training can often be performed 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 dedication for this style of learning, you may find that attending an dental hygienist online college is the ideal option for you.
Issues to Cover With Dental Assistant Programs
Once you have picked the dental specialty and type of credential you wish to attain, you can begin the procedure of comparing West Virginia programs and schools. As we covered at the start of this article, many students begin by checking out the cost and the location of the schools. Maybe they look for several online alternatives as well. Although these may be significant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the schools you are reviewing in order to reach an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to assist you with your evaluation and final selection of the ideal dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental Assistant School Accredited? There are many important reasons why you should only select an accredited dental assistant school. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in nearly 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 ensure that the education you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in West Virginia often prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited schools. And last, if you are applying for financial aid or a student loan, often they are not available for non-accredited West Virginia programs.
Is The Correct Dental Program Offered? You can decide to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just confirm that the West Virginia school you choose has 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. If you want to earn a living as a hygienist, the majority of West Virginia dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not common, are offered. However, bear in mind that just because a school has an exceptional reputation as well as accreditation does not mean all of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a strong accredited dental hygienist program, but may have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are only interested in a dental assistant degree, obviously it would not be the ideal college for you.
Is Enough Clinical Training Provided? Clinical or practical training is a vital part of every dental training program. This applies for the online school options as well. Most dental colleges have relationships with regional dental practices and clinics that furnish practical training for their students. It’s not only imperative that the college you enroll in provides enough clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently want to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, make sure that the West Virginia program you select offers clinical rotation in a local dental office that specializes in dental treatment for children.
Are Internships Available? Find out if the dental programs you are exploring have an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective means to obtain hands-on, practical experience in a professional West Virginia dental practice. They make it easier for students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students build working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes also.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant programs need assistance getting their first job. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the West Virginia dental community as well as large networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are Classes Small? Ask the West Virginia programs you are looking at how big on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes usually provide a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, large classes can be impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If practical, ask if you can sit in on a few classes at the college that you are leaning toward so that you can experience first hand the level of interaction between students and teachers before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Cost of the Program? Dental assistant colleges can vary in cost depending on the length of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the colleges and whether they are private or public also have an impact. But besides the tuition there are other significant costs 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 analyzing the cost of colleges, don’t forget to add all of the expenses associated with your education. Most schools have financial assistance departments, so be sure to check out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in West Virginia.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental school, you need to verify that the assistant program offers classes that suit your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while acquiring your education and need to attend classes near your West Virginia home at nights or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online program, you will still have to schedule your practical 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 responsibilities.
Find the Right Dental Assistant Program in West Virginia
Selecting the right dental assistant course is imperative if you intend to take the CDA exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are numerous options offered to acquire your training and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can receive your formal training through dental programs at community colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these schools typically receive a Certificate. Dental Assistants normally require about 1 year of study prior to entering the work force. When obtaining a certificate or degree you can choose to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training or credential you elect to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the appropriate choice. And by doing so, you will be ready to start your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in West Virginia.