Best Dental Assistant Schools
Learn more about starting your career as a dental assistant. Find out common dental assistant duties and discover top dental assistance programs.
Healthcare careers are an excellent choice because it is such a reliable job. There are always patients who need medical treatment, so no matter where you live, you can find an opportunity to use your degree. Healthcare careers often have higher salaries as well. Many college students are hesitant about medical classes because of the costs. While certain careers require many years of expensive college, there are plenty of options that only require certification or a bachelor’s degree.
A popular career choice that does not require a huge investment is a dental assistant. Depending on where you work, dental assistants often make around $30,000 to $35,000 as a starting salary, with more experienced assistants making closer towards $50,000 to $60,000 after a few years. There are many dental assistant schools to choose from. Some of the programs are certification courses, which are completed in under a year, while other courses are more traditional two-year programs. Listed below is everything you need to know about starting your career as a dental assistant.
Cost of Dental Assistance Schools
The cost of dental assistance schools greatly varies depending on what type of program you want. If you attend a traditional vocational program, the cost is around $1,000 to $7,000. This is largely based on who hosts the program and how long it takes to complete. Each state has different requirements to become certified as a dental assistance, which often determines the overall length of the courses. If you are taking a vocational program, make sure it is approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
Getting a degree is more expensive, costing around $15,000 to $25,000 based on the college. However, there are more opportunities for financial assistance if you pursue a traditional college degree versus a vocational training program. College degrees are much longer, often taking two to four years, but there are some colleges with expedited dental assistance programs.
Common Duties for Dental Assistants
Before you enroll in a dental assistant school, it is important to understand the duties of a dental assistant. As a dental assistant, you are responsible for greeting patients as they arrive. This also includes scheduling appointments, maintaining patient records and working with patients to manage their billing and payment information. When necessary, you may be asked to provide demonstrations to patients and answer questions regarding post-treatment care. You are also responsible for running the office, which includes following infection and hazard control protocol.
Dental assistants do more than take care of the office. They are also responsible for helping treat patients. Dental assistants are the ones who prepare patients for any procedures. This includes setting up trays and preparing tools. They may also participate in certain procedures, such as crown preparations, fillings or tooth extraction. Most dental assistants are also the ones who get x-rays and take impressions for tooth models.
Depending on your state, you may be able to perform more procedures either on your own, or with supervision. For example, some states allow dental assistants to perform tooth whitening procedures or apply dental sealants, while others either require this to be done by dentists, or at least with the supervision of a dentist.
Benefits of Becoming a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are always in high demand. The demand for dental assistants is expected to grow by 11 percent by 2030, which is much quicker than most fields, including other healthcare options. Even if you want a degree, completing dental assistance training is relatively quick. Many of the courses can also be completed online, but you must schedule at least some in-person time for practical training.
Compared to other medical careers, working as a dental assistant is not particularly stressful. While there are sometimes dental emergencies, they are not as severe as other medical emergencies. Your schedule is also more fixed and you do not have to worry about being on call. There are also additional certifications you can complete to increase your salary and advance your career, making it a good starting point if you want to expand your healthcare career.
Fox Valley Technical College
Fox Valley is located in Appleton, WI. It offers an in-depth, but relatively quick degree program for dental assistants, taking 18 months to complete. The program is offered during the day, but there are options to complete portions of the class online. Practical training and examinations are built into the curriculum. The college also helps you sign up for your certification exam after graduating with your degree.
Fox Valley has some of the best financial aid options out of all the dental programs. The school is also generous with credit transfers, making it a good choice if you previously started your dental training at another school.
Sinclair has a fairly straightforward dental assistance program, which only takes 17 credit hours to complete. The program offers everything you need to know about dental practice, including practice for common procedures performed by dental assistants. The classes also teach you how to communicate with patients and manage a dental office. All of the classes are accredited through CODA as well. Tuition is also reasonably priced at $2,100 as of writing.
Herzing is another excellent choice if you want a quick degree program. There are two programs available, a 16-month option consisting of 47 credit hours and a 24-month degree program, which consists of 68 credit hours. The 16-month diploma program covers everything you need to know about being a dental assistant, including lab practice and clinical exercises. The degree program focuses on general education courses and helps prepare you for future healthcare careers.
If you graduate from the degree program with a GPA of at least 3.00, you can apply for a scholarship to continue your dental hygiene education. At the end of both programs, you are eligible for taking certified dental assistant exams from both the Dentistry Licensing Exam and Dental Assisting National Board.
Mountainland Technical College
Mountainland has one of the most in-depth dental assistance programs. The school prides itself on preparing students for all parts of being a dental assistant. As part of this, you are able to train on-site at a dental office. During lab work, you can perform supervised cleanings and other non-invasive procedures on real patients. The classes also focus on the administrative side of being a dental assistant.