The Ideal Educational Path to Dental Assistant Training Explained
First things first, we have already covered a lot of important information about becoming a dental assistant training in our previous article on this topic. While this article will be focused towards more in-depth, advanced things you need to know about dental assistant training, it’s important to be aware of all the basic things as well that we have covered in our previous article.
So if you haven’t already taken a look at it, do so right away by clicking here. With that said, let us get to a couple of the steps of becoming a dental assistant that isn’t exactly necessary (and hence not covered in the first part of this article series), but are probably something you would want to consider at a later stage of your career to grow your skills and land better job opportunities.
Widening your educational base
If you want to add more strength to your dental education, you can also consider taking the National Entry Level Dental Assistant test after completing the CDA one. This test is offered by the DANB as well.
Then there are also specific certification options if you’re looking to get into a specialized area, including Orthodontic Dental Assistant, Preventive Functions Dental Assistant and Restorative Functions Dental Assistant.
Going for a bachelor’s degree
After working in the dental field for a few years, a dental assistant can consider going for advanced education. Those that complete their associate degree before starting to work can get their credits transferred to a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.
Although the bachelor’s program would take you 4 years to complete, it would help you advance in your career and have a more rewarding job.
A Look at the Training Programs
Students aspiring to be a dental assistant have multiple options available to them as far as the educational paths are concerned. However, the factor that greatly influences the decision is usually the possibility of further education.
For students that want to get into the workforce as quickly as possible – and don’t have any plans to go for further education – may want to consider a diploma or a certificate program. On the other hand, students that want to get into a more specialized field such as dental hygiene sooner or later may want to go for an associate’s degree, as it will allow them to transfer their credits to a bachelor’s degree in the future.
This is something important to consider especially given that a dental hygienist’s wage may turn out to be far higher than someone who has just completed a certificate program and settled for general dental assistance.
Diploma or Certificate Programs
Diploma and certificate programs seem to offer a variety of courses that help students qualify for entry-level jobs in the dental industry. The areas these courses typically tend to focus on include oral anatomy, office administration, radiography, as well as basic communication skills and getting familiar with dental materials.
So, how long does it take to be a dental assistant with these courses? Well, students that opt for them full-time can complete them in nine to 12 months, though it also depends on the particular course that they have enrolled into. The classes are typically divided into three terms, though the majority of the coursework is completed in the fall and spring semesters.
An associate degree is usually a two-year program that covers many of the same topics as the diploma or certificate programs but in a much more in-depth and thorough way. Now, while there’s usually no standalone bachelor’s degree in dental assistance training, there’s an option to get the credits gained at the associate level transferred to the 4-year program of becoming a dental hygienist. This can be an ideal educational path to those that are looking to advance in their career by becoming a dental hygienist.
An associate program should help a student gain a variety of useful dental skills, including some of the more important ones that are being mentioned below.
- Administrative skills: While assisting the dentist with general and specific dental treatments is usually a part of a dental assistant’s job, they must also know how to work alongside office managers to properly maintain records as well as make sure they are accurate and up-to-date. Similarly, a dental assistant is also required to have a good understanding of common dental terminology and dental practice management software.
- Radiographic skills: As x-rays have become a crucial part of all types of medical treatments, being knowledgeable of the latest x-ray technology is an essential component of a dental assistants’ job. An associate’s degree can help a student understand important radiographic techniques, which would allow them to provide the dentist with clear images that are required to make important decisions during a patient’s treatment.
- Chairside behavior: Due to the nature of the job, the chairside behavior is something a dental assistant has to work on as well. They need to ensure that they are being professional and compassionate while assisting and performing treatment on the patient and making them feel comfortable at the same time.
- Understanding dental materials: Ranging from working on dental fixtures to filling cavities, there’s a huge variety of dental materials that you would need to be knowledgeable about as a dental assistant. A dental assist that has got an associate degree must know the correct materials to be used for different dental procedures, as well as how to use them the right way. Similarly, someone specializing in orthodontic assistant training needs to have a thorough knowledge of the materials that are specifically used for orthodontic dental treatments.
- Making medical records: Making and modifying medical records is a common area of a dental assistant’s job. They need to record information about the previous surgeries a patient may have had, their current prescription, as well as any other detail related to their medical state that may be relevant to the treatment they are seeking. It would be a must to develop attention to detail during the associate program, as recording the information accurately both when the records are first made as well as when modifying them is crucial.