Dental assistants are a significant area of need in both urban Portland and in rural dental practices around Oregon. Getting your basic dental assisting certification and an Expanded Functions exam helps raise your qualifications amongst dental assistants. What's more, Portland Community College offers the Integrated Community Dental Assisting program to train versatile dental assistants with a wealth of classroom and hands-on knowledge going into their first jobs. Let's look at why this role is so crucial.
What Do Dental Assistants Do?
Dental assistants form the bedrock of most dental practices. They can work in many contexts, from large non-profit dental clinics to smaller private dental offices, rural or urban, and in clinics that focus on orthodontia instead of general dentistry. The role tends to include a combination of office management skills and working with dentists and patients in clinical settings. The office management work may consist of answering phones, making dental appointments, keeping track of medical history, and keeping the office organized so that inventory is always available when needed.
Dental assistants are often very hands-on, from taking models of patients' teeth to mixing materials and handling things like suction and air for a dentist. With the proper training, you can even do quite a few procedures, including placing topical aesthetics, sealants, and fluoride treatments. With radiography training, dental assistants can take and develop x-rays.
As you can see, with such varied tasks, most dental assistants will work with a team of other assistants, which means you may do all these tasks in a day. You could also specialize further, focusing on the elements you enjoy or do best. Working well with others, transitioning seamlessly between tasks, and being detailed oriented are all qualities that will serve you well as a dental assistant. Getting your certifications in this field can help you build a strong foundation while preparing you for eventually training in other roles at a dentist's practice.
Basic Versus Advanced Training as a Dental Assistant
There are quite a few paths into dental assisting because the United States needs tens of thousands more dental assistants. One of the most common paths to this career is to take a course that prepares you for your primary dental assisting role. With this training, you can often take your training and start as a dental assistant, developing more expertise and specific strengths through additional on-the-job training. While this works fine, many people prefer a more comprehensive training that allows them to approach their first paid role with lots of diverse experience.
The Integrated Community Dental Assisting program provides field experience, connections, and the necessary preparation to pass Basic Dental Assisting and Expanded Functions (a higher-level, high-demand certification) in only nine months. While quite intensive, the result is that you apply your knowledge in labs every Saturday and then one or two days a week in an externship in a dental office. Furthermore, Portland Community College recognizes that some communities don't have a place to take coursework locally to become a dental assistant. For that reason, they designed the Rural Online Program that allows you to take the coursework without being part of the clinical courses on-site at PCC. You'll connect with and work for a dental office where you can complete the same experiences and assignments as the students locally in Portland.
Meeting Community Needs through PCC
Many rural communities have very few healthcare services, including dental services. A dental practice functions best with all jobs filled, including dentist, hygienist, and dental assistants. That's how the office runs smoothly. If there's nowhere local to learn these skills, it can be very challenging to find people who specifically want to live in that area and be dental assistants.
For that reason, the Integrated Community Dental Assisting program has strongly emphasized having students in hands-on settings, generating real-world experience, and building responsibility so that you can hit the ground running in your clinical context. That role may end up being in the local Portland area due to contacts you made in the ICDA program. Or it could be a long-term position in a rural clinic where you can make a significant impact. You'll be glad you did this rapid, affordable, and vocationally driven program.
Portland Community College works to find high-demand jobs, like how to become a dental assistant. Then they create pathways that prepare students in ways that are affordable, flexible, hands-on, and connected to the work they'll be doing so they feel maximally prepared for certification exams and the job in front of them. Read more and apply for the ICDA today.