How to Select a Dental Assistant or Hygienist College near Petersburg 23803
Picking the right dental hygienist college near Petersburg VA is an essential initial step toward beginning your new career in dentistry. But prior to making your selection, you must assess and compare your school options. There is far more to performing your due diligence than picking the program with the least expensive tuition or enrolling in the program that is closest to your residence. There are other important issues to consider as well, for instance the program’s accreditation and reputation. Your initial step is to decide which of the 2 specializations you are most interested in receiving 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 1 year to complete for a diploma or certificate. However, dental hygienists generally earn an Associate Degree, which can take anywhere from two to three years to complete. Naturally with the lengthier training of a hygienist comes more cost. We will explore all of these considerations and supplemental questions that you need to be asking the programs you are looking at later in this article. But first, let’s look at the roles of both dental assistants and hygienists and the training options provided.
The Job of a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are an indispensable part of any Petersburg dental office and can carry out a wide range of functions. Their main job description is to furnish assistance to the admin staff and the dentists. Or simply put, to help keep the practice operating efficiently. A number of Virginia dental assistants opt to specialize and obtain certification in a specific area, for example pediatrics. Even so the majority of assistants carry out any job that they are asked to complete, including:
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Readying patients for teeth cleanings and treatments
- Sterilizing and preparing dental instruments
- Clearing patients’ mouths with suction equipment
- Providing instruments to dentists during procedures
- Readying X-ray machines and handling X-rays
- Ordering dental and office supplies
Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants deviate by state, so consult with the Virginia dental board for your state’s mandates. Assistants working with X-ray machines more than likely will need to be licensed and certified. Many dental assistants who are either required or decide to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
The Job of Dental Hygienists
When contrasting the job of a Petersburg dental assistant to that of a hygienist, the most significant difference is probably that the hygienist works more independently. As earlier discussed, the dental assistant works with and assists the dentists and the practice. Hygienists, while also assisting the Virginia practice, work with the patients more on a one-to-one basis. They are frequently the first person a patient encounters when called from the waiting room. They examine every patient’s teeth and gums and report their findings to the dentists. They may also perform basic procedures. Based on state law, a hygienist’s duties can include:
- Removing stains, tartar and plaque
- Applying fluoride treatments
- Applying sealants and polishing teeth
- Instructing patients regarding oral care
- Taking X-rays and developing film
- Removing sutures and applying fillings
To qualify for licensing in almost all states, dental hygienists must have graduated from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) accredited dental hygiene program. They also must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in addition to passing any state licensing exams. Once they have completed these requirements they are considered fully licensed and can add the “RDH” designation to their names, signifying Registered Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygienist and Assistant Training Options
Dental assistant programs are offered at Virginia community colleges along with technical or vocational schools. The most typical credential attained is the certificate, which usually takes about a year to finish. There are fewer Associate Degree programs available, and they provide a more comprehensive education, including general subjects in addition to the dental assistant courses. As a result of the added responsibility in contrast to an assistant, dental hygienists working in dental practices are often required to have an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. These programs can require anywhere from 2 to as long as 3 years to finish and must be accredited by the CDA in almost every state. They are also offered in community colleges and technical schools. Whether you are pursuing training as a dental hygienist or assistant, there will be a clinical aspect to the training also. A number of programs also sponsor internships with Petersburg area dentists or dental practices.
Online Dental Classes
Selecting an online dental assistant or hygienist school may be a good alternative for obtaining your training. Just remember that the program will not be 100% online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the balance of your classes will be accessible by means of your personal computer in the comfort of your Petersburg home or anywhere else on your tablet or laptop. For those continuing to work while going to school, online dental classes make education far more accessible. Some may even offer lower tuition costs than their traditional counterparts. And supplementary expenses such as for commuting, books and school supplies may be lessened also. The practical training can usually be completed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the clinical and online training, everything necessary to get the proper education is furnished. If you have the dedication for this method of learning, you may find that enrolling in an online dental program is the best option for you.
Subjects to Cover With Dental Hygienist or Assistant Schools
When you have picked the dental specialization and type of credential you want to obtain, you can start the process of comparing Petersburg area programs and schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many students start by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Possibly they look for some online options as well. Although these are significant initial considerations, there are a few additional questions that you should ask of the Virginia colleges you are reviewing in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and final selection of the best dental program for you.
Is the Dental Program Accredited? There are many good reasons why you should only enroll in an accredited dental assistant or hygienist program. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a requirement in nearly all states. In order to take the Certified Dental Assistant examination, your dental program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the instruction you receive is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Petersburg area employers frequently prefer or require that new hires are graduates of accredited programs. And last, if you are requesting financial aid or a student loan, usually they are not obtainable for non-accredited programs.
Is The Correct Dental Program Offered? You can elect to train to become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, just make certain that the college you decide on offers the program that’s right for you. For the assistant program, the options are to earn either a certificate or an Associate Degree. If you want to earn a living as a hygienist, most Petersburg area dental offices require an Associate Degree in dental hygiene. Higher degrees, although not common, are available. However, keep in mind that even if a school has an exceptional reputation and accreditation does not mean each one of its programs do as well. For example, an accredited college may have a solid accredited dental assistant program, but might have a weaker or non-accredited hygienist program. So if you are only interested in a dental hygiene degree, clearly it would not be the best college for you.
Is Enough Clinical Training Included? Clinical or practical training is an important portion of every dental training program. This holds true for the online college options also. Many Petersburg area dental programs have relationships with regional dental offices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It’s not only important that the program you select offers enough clinical hours but also provides them in the type of practice that you subsequently want to work in. For example, if you are interested in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the college you select offers clinical rotation in an area dental office that focuses on dental services for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental programs you are looking at have an internship program. Internships are undoubtedly the most effective way to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a professional Petersburg dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students build professional relationships in the local dentistry community. And they look good on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Most students that have graduated from dental assistant or hygiene colleges need assistance getting their first job. Check if the colleges 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 community as well as large networks of contacts where they can place their students for employment or internships.
Are the Classrooms Small? Find out from the Virginia programs you are interested in how large typically their classes are. The smaller classes usually provide a more intimate setting for learning where students have greater access to the teachers. On the other hand, larger classes often are impersonal and offer little individualized instruction. If practical, ask if you can attend a couple of classes at the school that you are most interested in in order to witness first hand the level of interaction between students and instructors before making a commitment.
What is the Entire Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene and dental assistant programs can fluctuate in cost based on the duration of the program and the volume of practical training provided. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools and if they are public or private also have an impact. But along with the tuition there are other significant expenses 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 comparing the cost of programs, don’t forget to add all of the expenses related to your education. Most colleges have financial aid departments, so make sure to ask what is available as far as loans, grants and scholarships in the 23803 area.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before selecting a dental school, you need to make sure that the assistant or hygienist program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is particularly true if you continue working while getting your education and need to attend classes near Petersburg in the evenings or on weekends. And even if you enroll in an online program, you will still have to schedule your clinical training classes. Also, while making your inquiries, ask what the make-up policy is if you should need to miss any classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Dental College near Petersburg VASelecting the right dental hygienist or dental assistant course is essential if you wish to take the CDA exam or, if mandated in your state, become licensed. As you now know, there are several options offered to receive your education and it takes a relatively short amount of time to become either a dental hygienist or assistant. You can receive your formal education through dental programs at junior colleges, trade schools, vocational schools and technical institutes. Graduates of these programs generally receive either an Associate Degree or a certificate. Dental Assistants can be practicing in as little as nine months to a year, while Dental Hygienists usually require approximately two years of studies prior to entering the work force. When obtaining either a certificate or a degree you can elect to go to classes online or on-campus. Whichever mode of education or credential you choose to pursue, by asking the questions presented in this article you will be in a better position to make the ideal selection. And as a result, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental assistant or hygienist.