Although no formal education is needed to become a dental assistant, graduating from the right training program is still the best way to start your career. Not all dental assistant programs will adequately prepare you for your future career, which is why it is important to choose wisely. Here are some things to keep in mind when comparing dental assistant programs that will help you find the right one.
Many graduates go on to take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam, which is offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Although there is no universal requirement to become certified, passing the CDA exam can nonetheless give you an advantage when it comes to finding a job. To be eligible to sit for the exam, you must first graduate from a program that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), which is a division of the American Dental Association (ADA).
Most CODA-accredited programs are between one and two years in length. There are currently more than 270 different programs nationwide that meet the rigorous requirements for accreditation.
Faculty and Staff
It’s also important to know a little bit about the faculty and staff at your college to ensure you are being trained by someone who is knowledgeable in the industry. Ideally, the program will be overseen by a dentist who is currently in practice, and have instructors who are also licensed dentists or certified dental assistants in their own right. Some information you may want to know about the school’s faculty and staff include:
- How much experience do you have as a dental professional?
- What are your certifications?
- Are you currently working in a dental clinic?
- What is the instructor/student ratio?
Facilities and Equipment
You should plan on visiting a dental assistant school in person to see what the facilities are like. To facilitate learning, they should be clean, brightly lit and well maintained both inside and out. The equipment should also be fairly new and in good operating condition. Some questions you should ask about the equipment include:
- How often is equipment upgraded?
- Is the equipment provided the most up-to-date available in the industry?
- How often are repairs and calibrations performed?
- What training will I receive on the available equipment?
Training and Education
Your dental assistant training should be a combination of classroom work and “hands on” practical experience. Some of the classes you may take include:
- Dental office administration
- Dental radiography
- Chairside assisting
- Laboratory procedures
- Infection control
You may also receive hand-on experience in the following:
- Sterilizing dental instruments
- Taking dental x-rays
- Applying fluoride treatments and dental sealants
- Creating molds of the teeth
When choosing a dental assistant program, cost will be a major factor, Even so, you should not base your decision on cost alone. Instead, you should make sure you are getting the best deal possible for your money. You should consider not only the cost of tuition, but the cost of books and other fees when making your decision. It’s also important to think about scholarship opportunities and available payment plans, as these could make it possible for you to afford a better quality school.
A few of the other things to think about are:
- Graduation placement rate
- Whether or not a school offers assistance with passing the certifying exam
- The availability of classes that fit your busy schedule
Dental assisting is a promising career that is expected to grow at a faster than average rate over the next decade. You can prepare for a job as a dental assistant by enrolling in a training course. For help in finding the right one, contact us.