Dental Assistant Schools

People sometimes dismiss the importance of dental care to overall health. In fact, good oral hygiene is an important component of staying healthy and living longer. Beyond the fact that clean teeth help you look your best and increase your self-esteem, they help prevent serious disease that can be caused by bacteria in the mouth, such as gum disease. The gums are very sensitive and bacteria can cause painful inflammation. Bacteria, if left in the mouth, can also travel down to the lungs and lead to serious respiratory ailments. Smokers who fail to regularly clean inside of their mouths leave toxins in place that increase the incidence of mouth cancer. There is even evidence that poor oral health is correlated with prenatal problems in pregnant women. Never has the importance of good dental hygiene been so apparent, so dentists have become a vital part of the medical establishment. Dentistry programs and dental assistant schools provide eligible candidates a unique opportunity to join this burgeoning and important profession.

There are several degrees that dentists and dental assistants can pursue. Dentists who graduate from dental school become a DDS (doctor of dental surgery) or a DMD (doctor of dental medicine). People interested in pursuing a DDS or DMD can earn a masterís degree in dentistry to help gain entry to dental school. Dental assistants often take an associateís degree in dental hygiene or another specialization in dentistry. Dental assistant schools sometimes offer degrees to dental hygienists and dental lab technicians. Dentists must typically attend dental school for four years on top of any undergraduate degree they have already attained. Many dentists then go on to a postdoctoral year or two to refine their skills under the tutelage of a seasoned professional. Dental assistants and hygienists have a much less rigorous educational load to surmount. While it is possible to complete a degree program in less than a year, many degree programs, like an associateís degree in dental assisting, takes between a year and two years to complete. On top of these requirements, most states require standardized testing for credentialing.

Dentists and dental assistants often have very desirable working hours and conditions. Whereas physicians are often on call for emergent care or even standard treatments like baby delivery, dentists work almost exclusively by appointment during regular hours. They are richly rewarded in both salary and respect. Finally, they work in a professional environment with lots of room for additional training and intellectual stimulation. There is also room for advancement, especially through specialization. Demand for specialists should be higher than demand for dental assistants in general.

While dentists are responsible for the diagnosis of disease or damage, dental assistants, technicians, and hygienists do a lot of the dental cleaning, recording, x-raying, and support work in the dentistís office. All of these skills are taught at dental assistant schools where hands-on programs prepare students for the rigors ahead. A sample curriculum might include a course on chair side assisting. This class would teach the vocabulary and technology necessary to help a dentist examine patients and provide care. Radiology courses teach the techniques and safety requirements of taking dental x-rays. A course on preventative dentistry will teach students how to counsel patients on keeping their teeth and gums healthy at home. There are also specialized programs and coursework for dental assistants who want to move laterally or vertically in their profession. Specialties like orthodontia and periodontia require extra knowledge and training. The cost of this extra education is offset by an increased demand for specialty dental assistants and a commensurate bump in salary.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014