A dentist couldn’t do his or her job without dental assistants –without their attention to detail, helping hands, and complementary workflows. In fact, these professionals allow dental offices to remain orderly and sterilized, providing a streamlined and safe place in which dentists can perform surgeries. Dental assistants are responsible for numerous things including sterilizing and preparing instruments for the dentist to use on his patients, performing x-ray and laboratory procedures, updating patient records, collecting patient fees, and even performing routine procedures such as cleanings (though these duties can vary based on state requirements).
A dental assistant training program prepares students to perform all of the above with efficacy and professionalism. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job outlook for dental assistants remains excellent into the future; and while many dental assistants receive on-the-job training, graduating from an accredited dental assistant program makes one a much more attractive job candidate.
Generally, graduating from a dental assistant program displays to employers that you are competent in all areas needed to maintain a dental office, suggesting proficiency with dental terminology, patient records handling, radiology, dental insurance, and dental ethics. When you enter the field trained from an accredited program, it shows that you have put in serious time and passionate commitment to becoming qualified. Of course, dental assistants will have to learn the nuances that distinguish certain dental offices from others, but having a solid foundation from acquiring a degree is one of the best ways to prepare oneself for a career in the industry.
Places That Offer Accredited Online Dental Assistant Programs
Penn Foster Career School
Penn Foster Career School offers over 80 programs that can be completed either online or via postal correspondence. The school awards a career diploma in dental assisting that includes training in dental terminology, infection control, radiology, records management, and much more. One can also access their unique student support department by phone, online, or by email at flexible hours. The Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association and the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) have both accredited Penn Foster Career School.
Monroe Community College
Monroe Community College at the State University of New York offers its Dental Assisting Rapid Track (D.A.R.T) program entirely online and is taught by experienced dental assisting professionals. Their two-semester program includes curricula in Preclinical Dental Assisting and Dental Specialties Procedures. They also require 500 of hours of clinical experience to be completed during the program. Students earn a certificate once they’ve earned the 24 total credit hours for the certificate, which the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association has accredited.
In most states dental assistants don’t need a college degree to work. However, different regions have different licensing and operating standards for dental assistants. For example, some states may not allow a dental assistant to perform radiology procedures without additional licensing, while others are so lenient that they allow the dental assistant to perform whatever duties the dentist asks of them. It is best to check with the appropriate local state board for guidelines about becoming a dental assistant wherever you wish to practice the profession.
The Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association is responsible for accrediting dental assistant programs in the U.S. In 2009, they accredited 281 different dental assisting programs. A dental assistant can earn the CDA (Certified Dental Assistant) credential through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) once they’ve completed an accredited program in addition to having two years of full-time or four years of part-time dental assisting experience. Thirty-seven different states in the U.S recognize or require this credential for more advanced work.
Becoming a dental assistant can be a very rewarding and steady career. There are also opportunities to expand one’s education by advancing to a two-year degree program. Some dental assistants go on to become dental assisting instructors, office managers, dental product salespeople, insurance claims processors for insurance companies, or even go back to school to become dental hygienists. The path to a rewarding career as a dental assistant begins with finding some type of accredited program, whether it be brick and mortar service or otherwise. Online programs offer flexibility for busy students, don’t require commuting to and from campus, and also tend to cost less than traditional campus-based schools. Becoming an online student also demonstrates that a person can work independently and that he or she has the self-motivation necessary to be successful in today’s work environments.