The purpose of formal dental assistant training is to teach dental assisting students the skills they need to perform as professional dental assistants. This can include hands-on skills such as handling dental instruments, sterilizing equipment and assisting the dentist. But it also includes foundation subjects, such as healthcare basics, communication skills, and business skills for running a dental front office, as well as people-oriented skills for working with patients. At the right school, dental assistant training can be a varied, rounded education that prepares graduates for solid, lucrative careers.
Most training programs last from nine months to around two years, resulting in a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree. Training can be found at dental assistant schools including junior colleges, career schools and some universities.
Although dental assistant courses vary between schools, the courses described below are included in most dental assistant programs.
Dental Assistant Training Program Topics
Individual training programs vary, but the course subjects students are trained in generally cover the topics below.
Patient Care and Comfort: One of the chief responsibilities of a dental assistant is making sure patients are calm and comfortable. Thus, dental assistant training usually covers courses on patient care. These courses are important in helping dental assistants learn to create a positive experience for the patient while keeping them safe. Dental assistants are trained to exhibit a calm, confident demeanor in the company of patients.
Safety and Hygiene: Dental assistants are responsible for ensuring patients to not contract an infection from a non-sterile environment. As part of dental assistant training, students learn to create and enforce infection control protocols to guarantee that patients are never exposed to contaminated materials. They are also trained to ensure fluids and substances that might be liberated by a dental procedure are cleaned, and that the patient space is sanitized before another procedure is performed.
Instructing Patients in Proper Dental Care: This important course familiarizes students with the materials of the dental profession. The goal is mastery of dental assistant vocabulary and the use of important tools and materials.
Infection Control: Dental assistant courses in infection control teach students to prevent and fight infection in patients. Students learn about maintaining sterility in the dental environment and treating infections with various antibiotics.
Specialties: Students in this dental assistant course learn about the various dental specialties they might encounter during their careers, including pediatric dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontics.
Laboratory Procedures: Dental assistant courses in laboratory procedures teach students a hands-on approach to mastering routine tests and other procedures.
Business Administration: Dental assistant courses in business teach dental assisting students the business skills needed to work effectively in a dental office. This includes effectively dealing with patients and suppliers, scheduling appointments, and providing customer service.
Head and Neck Anatomy: Students of this basic dental assistant course learn the various parts of the head and neck.
Oral Anatomy: This important dental assistant course teaches the anatomy of the mouth and teeth. Tooth Morphology: This course teaches students the anatomic topography of the teeth.
Microbiology: This prerequisite-level dental assisting course focuses on the microbes that cause tooth decay and other oral health problems.
Anatomy and Physiology: This prerequisite healthcare course provides a general overview of the anatomy of the human body.
Oral Pathology: In this course, dental assisting students learn the various diseases and afflictions that infect patients.
Embryology and Histology: Histology deals with microstructures of the human body and their related functions, while embryology mainly concerns the developmental processes of a human being.
Psychology and the Special Patient: In this dental assistant course, students learn to deal with patient psychology. Psychological practices help dental assistants keep patients in a calm and relaxed state to make their visit as peaceful as possible.
Pharmacology, Pain Control, and Therapeutics: In this course, dental assistants learn about the various drugs and medicines used in dentistry and how to administer them to patients correctly.
Preventive Dentistry and Nutrition: This course gives dental assistants the knowledge to advise patients on proper preventative dental care.
Radiology:These dental assistant courses teach dental assistants the basics of dental radiology and how take and evaluate patient x-rays.
Human Relations: This course helps dental assistants with the business aspects of the dental profession.
Job Seeking Skills: This provides tips and strategies to help dental assistants find employment after graduation.
Dental Assisting Externships
After completing all required dental assistant courses, most dental assisting students take on externships at local dental offices. During an externship, the dental assistant makes use of the knowledge gained from the above courses and applies it in a live dental setting.
Externships help dental assistants gain real-world work experience and become more attractive to employers, and often help them form professional connections at the externship site.