How to Choose a Dental Assistant College in Wisconsin
Selecting the ideal dental assistant program in Wisconsin is an important initial step toward starting your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your choice, you need to evaluate and compare your school options. There is much more to completing your due diligence than choosing the training with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your residence. There are other important issues to consider also, for instance the school’s accreditation and reputation. Your first step is to decide which of the 2 specialties you are most interested in getting training for, which may depend on the amount of money and time that you have to commit. The most common dental assistant program normally takes about one year to finish for a certificate or diploma. Meanwhile dental hygienists usually earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to finish. Obviously with the longer training of a dental hygienist comes more expense. We will cover all of these factors and additional questions that you should be asking the dental assistant schools you are reviewing later in this article. But first, let’s explore the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options available.
The Function of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an indispensable component of any Wisconsin dental office and can undertake a wide range of tasks. Their primary job description is to furnish assistance to the dentists and the administrative staff. In other words, to help keep the practice working successfully. A number of dental assistants opt to specialize and receive certification in a specific area, for example periodontics. However the majority of assistants carry out any task that they are called upon to complete, including:
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Prepping patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Sterilizing and preparing instruments for dentists
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Handing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Prepping X-ray machines and processing X-rays
- Purchasing dental and office supplies
Certification and licensing requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so consult with the Wisconsin dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants dealing with X-ray machines more than 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 Duties of a Dental Hygienist
When contrasting the job of a dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the most significant difference is undoubtedly that the dental hygienist works more independently. As earlier mentioned, the dental assistant works with and in support of the practice and the dentists. Hygienists, while also supporting the Wisconsin practice, work with the patients more on an individual basis. They are typically the first person a patient encounters when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient’s teeth and gums and present their results to the dentists. They also may carry out basic procedures. Depending on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities may include:
- Removing plaque, tartar and stains
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Educating patients regarding oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
In order to be licensed in almost all states, dental hygienists must have graduated from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination in addition to passing any state licensure exams. After they have completed 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 programs are provided at Wisconsin junior colleges along with technical or vocational schools. The most typical credential acquired is the certificate, which usually takes about a year to complete. There are less Associate Degree programs offered, and they provide a more extensive education, incorporating general subjects in addition to the dental assistant classes. Due to the additional responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental offices are generally 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 Wisconsin community colleges and technical schools. Whether you are pursuing training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical component to the training also. A number of programs also sponsor internships with local dentists or dental practices.
Dental Assistant Online Training
Selecting an online dental assistant program may be a great alternative for obtaining your training. Just remember that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be accessible by means of your desktop computer in the comfort of your Wisconsin home or anywhere else on your laptop or tablet. For those working while going to school, online dental programs make education a lot more accessible. Many may even have lower tuition costs than their traditional counterparts. And added expenses such as for books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened also. The practical training can typically 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 proper education is furnished. If you have the discipline for this mode of education, you may find that enrolling in an dental hygienist online school is the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Dental Assistant Colleges
Once you have decided on the dental specialization and type of credential you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of comparing Wisconsin programs and schools. As we covered at the start of this article, many students start by checking out the location and the cost of the schools. Perhaps they search for several online options as well. Although these may be relevant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to ask of the programs you are looking at in order to reach an informed decision. To start that process, we have included a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and final selection of the best dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental Assistant Program Accredited? There are many good reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental assistant program. If you are intending to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. To qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the instruction you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Employers in Wisconsin frequently prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited colleges. And last, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, often they are not provided for non-accredited Wisconsin programs.
Is The Right Dental Program Offered? You can opt to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just verify that the Wisconsin school you choose has the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the options are to enroll in a certificate program or earn an Associate Degree. In order to have a career as a hygienist, many Wisconsin dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. More advanced degrees, although not prevalent, 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 school may have a solid accredited dental hygienist program, but could have a weaker or non-accredited assistant program. So if you are just interested in a dental assistant degree, naturally it would not be the ideal college for you.
Is Adequate Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an important portion of any dental training program. This applies for the online school options also. A number of dental schools have relationships with area dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only essential that the program you select provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently want to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the Wisconsin college you enroll in offers clinical rotation in an area dental office that specializes in dental treatment for children.
Is There an Internship Program? Verify if the dental schools you are exploring sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the ideal method to receive hands-on, clinical experience in a professional Wisconsin 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 too.
Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant colleges need help getting their first job. Ask if the colleges you are considering have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Colleges with higher job placement rates probably have excellent reputations within the Wisconsin dental profession in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are Classrooms Smaller? Ask the Wisconsin schools you are reviewing how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes usually provide a more intimate environment for training where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, large classes often are impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If feasible, find out if you can monitor a few classes at the college that you are leaning toward so that you can experience first hand the degree of interaction between students and instructors before making a commitment.
What is the Overall Cost of the Program? Dental assistant training can fluctuate in cost depending on the length of the program and the volume of clinical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the colleges and whether they are public or private also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial costs 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 analyzing the cost of schools, don’t forget to add all of the expenses associated with your education. Most colleges have financial assistance departments, so be sure to check out what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in Wisconsin.
Are the Classes Accessible? Before enrolling in a dental college, you need to confirm that the assistant program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while receiving your education and must go to classes near your Wisconsin 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 making your inquiries, ask what the make-up procedure is if you should need to miss any classes due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Ideal Dental Assistant College in Wisconsin
Enrolling in the ideal dental assistant program is crucial if you wish to take the CDA examination or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are a number of options offered to acquire your training and it takes a fairly short period of time to become a dental assistant. You can acquire your formal education through dental programs at community colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these schools usually obtain a Certificate. Dental Assistants typically require roughly one year of study before they enter the job market. When earning a certificate or degree you can elect to attend classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of education or credential you elect 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 commence your journey toward becoming a dental assistant in Wisconsin.