Dental assistants help dentists with many aspects of thier practice, from record keeping to patient care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental assistant duties vary by state and may vary by individual dental practice as well. Requirements to become a dental assistant also vary by state. Some states require assistants to graduate from an accredited program and pass a state exam, while other states do not require any formal educational training. Most community colleges, trade schools, and adult education centers across the U.S. offer dental assistant training programs.
Butte County Regional Occupational Program
Many counties have regional occupational programs that offer courses for both high school students and adults. Often, these programs are offered at little to no cost for high school students, but charge adults tuition. The Butte County ROP in California offers a nine-month dental assisting program. This program requires students to be at least 18 years of age, possess a tuberculosis clearance, have received hepatitis B immunization and general computer skills. Internships are available, and upon completion students are eligible to take the Dental Board examination that provides state certification as a Registered Dental Assistant.
Pima Medical Institute
Trade schools like Pima Medical Institute offer dental assistant programs that grant a certificate of completion after graduation. The program at Pima Medical Institute focuses on patient care, radiography and front office procedures. Students work in onsite dental labs and gain hands-on experience in dental assisting. This program is completed in seven months. Externships are also part of the curriculum and offer students the chance to apply knowledge learned in the program in an actual dental office.
Central Carolina Community College
Many community colleges offer training in trade professions, including dental assisting. Central Carolina Community College offers a program accredited by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation. Students who complete the program are eligible to take national and state accreditation exams and to participate in clinical training to receive their licenses to practice. Students gain experience in the program by providing basic oral health care to under-served populations and other community members. They also serve in internships in the community with area dentists. Students in this program may also continue on to the dental hygienist program.
The Downey Adult School Career and Educational Center
Adult education schools offer training in dental assisting similar to that provided at a community college. However, financial aid is usually, but not always, available for programs provided at this type of school. The Downey Adult School Career and Educational Center in Downey, California, offers a dental assistant program accredited by the Dental Board of California and the Dental Assisting National Board. This program focuses on all aspects of front and back office procedures. Students will also complete a 240-hour clinical externship at the end of the program and will receive career placement assistance after graduation.
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