Accredited Dental Assistant Programs | How to Become a Dental Hygienist near Lancaster PA 17601

How to Choose a Dental Assistant or Hygienist Training Program near Lancaster 17601

dental assistant training in Lancaster PAPicking the right dental hygienist training near Lancaster PA is an essential initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you need to analyze and compare your school options. There is far more to doing your due diligence than choosing the school with the most affordable tuition or enrolling in the college that is closest to your residence. There are other important factors to take into account as well, including the school’s accreditation and reputation. Your first step is to decide which of the two specialties you are most interested in receiving training for, which may depend on the amount of time and money that you have to invest. The most common dental assistant program generally takes about 1 year to complete for a diploma or certificate. On the other hand, dental hygienists typically earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to complete. Naturally with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will cover all of these issues and additional questions that you need to be asking the colleges you are evaluating later in this article. But first, let’s look at the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options available.

The Function of a Dental Assistant

Lancaster dental assistant helping dentist 17601Dental assistants are an integral part of any Lancaster dental office and can carry out a variety of duties. Their primary job description is to give assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. In other words, to help keep the practice running successfully. Some Pennsylvania dental assistants opt to specialize and obtain certification in a particular area, for instance pediatrics. However the majority of assistants carry out any task that they are asked to fulfill, for example:

  • Scheduling and verifying appointments
  • Preparing patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
  • Sterilizing and preparing instruments for dentists
  • Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
  • Handing instruments to dentists during procedures
  • Preparing X-ray machines and handling X-rays
  • Purchasing office and dental supplies

Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants vary by state, so consult with the Pennsylvania dental board for your state’s regulations. Assistants working with X-ray machines most likely will have to be certified and licensed. A large number of 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 Dental Hygienists

Lancaster dental hygienist treating patient in PennsylvaniaWhen comparing the job of a Lancaster dental hygienist to that of an assistant, the biggest difference is undoubtedly that the hygienist works more independently. As previously mentioned, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also supporting the Pennsylvania practice, deal with the patients more on an individual basis. They are often the initial person a patient sees when called from the waiting area. They examine each patient’s teeth and gums and present their results to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s responsibilities can include:

  • Removing stains, tartar and plaque
  • Applying fluoride treatments
  • Applying sealants and polishing teeth
  • Instructing patients regarding oral hygiene
  • Taking and developing X-rays
  • Applying fillings and removing sutures

To qualify for licensing in nearly 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 licensing exams. After they have completed these requirements they are considered fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, standing for Registered Dental Hygienist.

Dental Hygienist & Assistant Training Options

Dental assistant courses are available at Pennsylvania junior colleges as well as trade or vocational schools. The most typical credential attained is the certificate, which generally takes about a year to complete. There are fewer Associate Degree programs offered, and they provide a more extensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. Because of the increased responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists employed in dental offices are often required to hold an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can take anywhere from two to as long as three years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in nearly every state. They are also offered in vocational schools and community colleges. Regardless of whether you are interested in training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a practical component to the training also. Some programs also offer internships with Lancaster area dentists or dental practices.

Online Dental Colleges

attending dental assistant school online in Lancaster homeEnrolling in an online dental hygienist or assistant college can be a great option for obtaining your education. Just remember that the classes will not be totally online, since there will be a clinical portion to your training. But the rest of your classes will be accessible by means of your desktop computer in the convenience of your Lancaster home or elsewhere on your laptop or tablet. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental programs make education far more obtainable. Many may even charge lower tuition costs than their traditional competitors. And supplementary expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be lessened also. The clinical training can often be completed at a community dental practice or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything needed to receive the proper education is provided. If you have the discipline for this method of learning, you might find that attending an dental online program is the right option for you.

Topics to Cover With Dental Hygienist or Assistant Programs

Questions to ask Pennsylvania dental colleges 17601After you have decided on the dental specialization and type of credential you would like to earn, you can start the process of comparing Lancaster area programs and schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of students start by looking at the location and the cost of the schools. Perhaps they search for several online alternatives also. Even though these may be relevant initial points to consider, there are a few additional questions that you need to ask of the Pennsylvania colleges you are reviewing in order to make an informed decision. To start that process, we have furnished a list of questions to help you with your due diligence and ultimate selection of the ideal dental school for you.

Is the Dental School Accredited? There are many important reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist or assistant school. If you are planning to become certified or licensed, then accreditation is a condition in almost all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps establish that the instruction you get is of the highest quality and comprehensive. Lancaster area employers frequently prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are requesting a student loan or financial aid, often they are not available for non-accredited colleges.

Is The Proper Dental Program Offered? You can opt to train to become a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, just verify that the college you choose has the program that you want. For the assistant program, the options are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. In order to earn a living as a hygienist, a large number of Lancaster area dental practices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not common, are available. However, keep in mind that just because a college has a good reputation and accreditation does not mean each one of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a strong accredited dental assistant program, but may have a weaker or non-accredited hygienist program. So if you are just interested in a dental hygiene degree, naturally it would not be the best college for you.

Is Plenty of Clinical Training Provided? Practical or clinical training is an important portion of any dental training program. This is true for the online college options also. A number of Lancaster area dental colleges have relationships with area dental practices and clinics that provide practical training for their students. It’s not only important that the school you enroll in provides adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently would like to work in. As an example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, confirm that the college you choose offers clinical rotation in a local dental office that focuses on dental services for children.

Is There an Internship Program? Ask if the dental schools you are evaluating sponsor an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective way to obtain hands-on, practical experience in a professional Lancaster dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students establish working relationships in the professional dental community. And they look good on resumes too.

Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Many students that have graduated from dental hygiene or assistant programs need help obtaining their first job. Ask if the programs you are researching 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 dental profession in addition to broad networks of contacts where they can place their students for internships or employment.

Are Classes Smaller? Check with the Pennsylvania programs you are interested in how large on average their classrooms are. The smaller classes tend to offer a more intimate setting for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. Conversely, larger classes often are impersonal and provide little one-on-one instruction. If practical, find out if you can attend a couple of classes at the college that you are most interested in so that you can witness first hand the amount of interaction between students and instructors before enrolling.

 What is the Total Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene and dental assistant programs can vary in cost depending on the duration of the program and the amount of practical training provided. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools and if they are private or public also have an impact. But in addition to the tuition there are other substantial costs which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school materials, equipment and supplies. So when analyzing the cost of colleges, remember to include all of the costs associated with your education. Most schools have financial assistance offices, so be sure to ask what is available as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the 17601 area.

Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental school, you need to make sure that the assistant or hygienist program offers classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you will be working while getting your education and have to go to classes near Lancaster in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you select an online program, you will still need 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 because of illness, work or family responsibilities.

Find the Best Dental School near Lancaster PA

Picking the ideal dental assistant or dental hygienist course is imperative if you intend to take the CDA exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several alternatives offered to receive your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become either a dental hygienist or assistant. You can receive your formal education through dental programs at junior colleges, technical institutes, trade schools and vocational schools. Graduates of these schools generally receive either an Associate Degree or a certificate. Dental Assistants can be practicing in just 9 months to a year, while Dental Hygienists normally require roughly 2 years of studies before they enter the job market. When obtaining either a certificate or a degree you can elect to attend classes online or on-campus. Whichever credential or mode of training you choose to pursue, by asking 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 commence your journey toward becoming a dental assistant or hygienist.

 

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