Dental Schools in Utah

Student Interview

Have you ever wondered, what is the difference is between an 8+ month Dental Assistant Program and the 3-month Dental Assistant Program offered at Academy of Dental Careers?  How is Academy of Dental Careers able to provide such a wonderful program in such a short amount of time? Or maybe you have wondered why an externship is so important or what it is like finding employment after graduating?

We met with Heidi, a graduate of our August 2011 Dental Assistant Program, to learn more about how her experience at an 8-month Dental Assistant School compared to her 3-month Dental Assistant Program at Academy of Dental Careers.  We also learned more about what it is like to do an externship and to find employment in the exciting field of Dental Assisting!

ADC: Thank you again for meeting with us today, Heidi!
HE: Oh, I am excited to be here!

ADC: So lets start at the beginning.  How did you decide to become a Dental Assistant?
HE: I wanted to do Dental Hygiene to begin with.  I decided to do Dental Assisting to get my foot in the door and I think it will help me when I pursue Dental Hygiene.  I have a lot of related experience to add to my resume and I feel comfortable working in a dental office.  I really enjoy interacting with patients.

ADC: What is your favorite procedure?
HE: I love assisting with crowns.  I like the artistic design that comes with doing crowns and enjoy the cosmetic side of it.  Plus it can be challenging which makes it that much better!

ADC: You started receiving your education at another Dental Assistant School.  Is that correct?
HE: Yes, I did.

ADC: How long was their Dental Assistant Program?
HE: It was 8 months plus a 200-hour externship.

ADC: How did you choose that school in the first place?
HE: I did a little bit of research.  I saw some of the reviews for other schools and I had some high school friends who went to some technical schools here and they did not recommend them.   So I at least knew which schools I did not want to go to!  This school did not have any reviews so I figured it must not be bad.  When I met with them I was told I would be able to chairside assist with patients and have the opportunity to observe a live dental office.  It even advertises that on their website!  Within the 5 months I was there, I never got to do that though.

ADC: So what did you actually spend the majority of your time doing during class?
HE:  We had lectures but for the most part we were assigned bookwork to do independently during class.  They had a vague class schedule but what was on it never took the full class time so we would do our homework during class as well.  Since we were suppose to be independently reading or doing our homework students would get bored and goof off.  It was very distracting.  It was very hectic and poorly organized.  A lot of students would choose to not even come to class.  That was tempting as I felt they were wasting our time anyways.

ADC:  What about hands-on learning or actual chairside assisting?
HE: In the 5 months I was there we did one hands-on clinical where they brought instruments into the classroom and we learned the names and which procedure they were for.  However, we never learned how to actually pass or receive the instruments.  We also had 2 – 3 times when we practiced taking x-rays on models.  It was very different from my experience at Academy of Dental Careers.

ADC: How many students were in the program with you?
HE: It was hard to tell since students were often absent but I would say 18 students.  But we did not all start the program together.  Each student started at a different time so everyone’s knowledge was at a different level.  For example some had completed anatomy and learned tooth numbers while others hadn’t which made it very confusing.  During class or in our bookwork tooth numbers would be mentioned and half of us would be confused.  I think that being so confused is partially why students just gave up and stopped even paying attention during class.

ADC: How many instructors did you have?
HE: We had 1 instructor

ADC: How many clinical rooms did you have available?
HE: It varied.  There were 4 rooms but that did not mean that we were allowed to use all of them.

ADC: So with 18 students, 4 clinical rooms, and 1 instructor, how many students would be getting hands on practice at a time?  I know you said that you only did a few hands-on clinicals during the 5 months you were there but when you did, what was it like?
HE: It wasn’t arranged very well.  It seemed like you would have to fight for your spot to learn or to get more hands on practice.   For example, when we did x-rays we had 5 students in the clinical room and we were doing x-rays on a model.  We got to take a few x-rays and then had to give someone else a turn.  I felt like at the end of the day we hardly got to practice.  Plus if we had a question you had to wait for the instructor to be available or see if another student would help you.  Most of the time I spent waiting for my turn and of course while other students were waiting for their turn they were goofing off and distracting everyone else.

ADC:  What was your experience with the financial department at that school?
HE: I met with them and brought them all of my information, tax records of my parents and myself.  Then she tried to see if I qualified for financial aid.  She told me I did not qualify for financial aid and how much the tuition was.  She said I could make payments for a year.  I did a down payment and chose to make monthly payments of around $800.  I could not personally afford the monthly payment so my parents had to help me.  The tuition was a little over $12,000 but when I talked to other students some were paying over $14,000.  I am not sure why but the tuition varied.

ADC: So what made you decide to look for a different school to attend?
HE: I was trying to understand and to work with them.  I told them that I was promised things I was not receiving and that I felt with how disorganized it was I was wasting my time and money.  Plus I was concerned about how I would be able to find a job with the training I was receiving.  When I saw that things were not going to change I decided to look for a different school.

ADC: How did you hear about Academy of Dental Careers?
HE: I went online and found your website.  I read through the student testimonials and with so many good things to say about the Dental Assistant Program I figured I should look into it.

ADC: What made you decide to transfer to Academy of Dental Careers?
HE: I researched it and I paid attention to details that I did not realize were so important when I choose the first school.  Like how many students there would be.  How many instructors you have.  How classes are organized and how much time you truly get with hands-on practice.  When I did my tour it caught my eye that the classroom was small and you take so few students yet have 2 or more instructors.  The time frame of a shorter program also worked really well for me.

ADC: How long was your Dental Assistant Program at Academy of Dental Careers?
HE: 3 months and a 100-hour externship

ADC: How many students were in your Dental Assistant Program at Academy of Dental Careers?
HE: 6 students

ADC: And how many instructors did you have at Academy of Dental Careers?
HE: We had 2 instructors

ADC: So what was a typical class like at Academy of Dental Careers?  How did you spend the majority of your time during class?  What were your clinicals like?
HE:  We did lecturing and hands on clinicals to practice our skills.  I was impressed with how we had a very structured day-to-day schedule.  It did not leave any time for students to goof off and it made me feel like I was making a good use of my time.  I actually never wanted to miss class because I knew it was so valuable.  That is probably why other students did not miss class either.    We always took advantage of the full class time and never had time to do our homework while at school.

During clinicals we mocked the real life experience.  The instructor acted like the dentist, the student practiced as the assistant, and a student acted as the patient.  We actually chairside assisted like what real Dental Assistants do!  We suctioned, passed the instruments, received the instruments, and interacted with patients the way you would in real life.  We rarely ever used models.  After we felt comfortable assisting in that procedure then we would rotate and another student would have their turn.  During the clinical we played the role of the assistant but also the patient, which actually taught me a lot.  You learned what it is like to have the treatment done from the patient’s point of view and what you can do to make the procedure more comfortable.

ADC: Did you notice a difference in the teaching style at Academy of Dental Careers?
HE:  Yes!  Obviously there was way more structure at Academy of Dental Careers.  And honestly I felt like it was easier to learn here too.  We were told what we needed to memorize, we studied the material at home, came to class and reviewed it, then did hands-on clinicals on the information.  By the end of the day you had it memorized.  It was not cluttered with all this information that we do not need to know.  I felt like some of the things I learned at my other program we were taught purely to take up time.

ADC: What was your experience with the financial department at Academy of Dental Careers?
HE: I felt it was so easy to find a way to pay for the tuition.   There were several payment options.  First of all the tuition is significantly less!  Having to pay less than $4,000.00 made it so I could do monthly payments that I was able to pay all by myself.  I did not need my parents to help me.

ADC: If someone asked you what the difference is between a 8-month Dental Assistant School and Academy of Dental Careers’ 3-month Dental Assistant Program, what would you tell them?
HE:  I feel like at the other school we would spend days learning something that shouldn’t take so long.   Most of the time it probably took days to learn because it was not organized in a way that made it the easiest to memorize nor was the class time structured.  I feel like the 3-month Dental Assistant Program at Academy of Dental Careers is taught in an order that makes sense.  I did not feel like it was hard memorizing the information.  Once you memorize why you do a certain procedure, how to set up for it, and the order you pass the instruments nothing really changes.  It is the same each time.  You do not need to stretch out the information to take several months.  You just need to focus on the important information and memorize it, which is what Academy of Dental Careers had us do.   Having two instructors and such a small class gave us more time to learn.  I was not waiting my turn to have access to the materials I needed to learn or to be able to ask the instructor a question.

When I first chose to transfer to Academy of Dental Careers’ 3-month Dental Assistant Program I was hesitant that employers would feel like that was too short of a program.  In reality, I found that all employers cared about was how I did during working interviews when I had the chance to show them my hands-on skills!  Once I showed them what I knew and my skills that is all that mattered.  No one even asked how long I went to school.  I actually had dentists comment on how well trained I am.

So I guess in brief, I would say the difference between an 8-month dental assistant school and Academy of Dental Careers’ 3-month Dental Assistant Program is that you utilize your time better, you learn and memorize what you really need to know, and most importantly you use your time in hands-on clinicals practicing your Dental Assisting skills.  Dental Assisting truly is a skill and in the end, your skills are all that matter.

ADC: What was your favorite clinical at Academy of Dental Careers?
HE: That is easy!  Making temporaries was my favorite!

ADC:  Academy of Dental Careers requires that you complete a 100-hour externship.  What was your experience like during your externship?
HE: It was a good experience!  I felt like I learned a lot and I got more comfortable assisting in general.  Which made me more confident when I did working interviews, I think it really helped me in finding a job.

ADC: (laughing) That was our next question, how do you think completing an externship effected your ability in finding employment?
HE: It made me feel more comfortable and confident when I did interviews.  I received a lot of experience during my externship plus I got good feedback from the dentist and it helped me to start networking.  If the externship office had been busier they would have hired me.

ADC:  How long after graduating did it take for you to secure a position as a Dental Assistant?
HE: I finished my externship in August.  Then I went on a month vacation in September.  I started my job as a Dental Assistant in October so I guess about 2 weeks of looking for employment.

ADC: What was the response like when you sent out your resume?
HE: I got a lot of calls and some emails.  I went to three working interviews in 1 week.  I accepted one job and had another office call me the next day to offer me a position at their office.  So I was actually offered employment at two different places.  I did not feel it was hard.  There are a lot of openings!

ADC: One last question, if you could give others advice on how to choose a Dental Assistant Program, what would you tell them?
HE: To go to Academy of Dental Careers! (laughs) Um, I would say to really research the schools.  Look at student testimonials or reviews of the school and don’t take their reviews lightly.  If they had a problem at that school, you probably will too.  And no reviews is not necessarily a good thing.  Ask a lot of questions.  Maybe look to see if they have a structured class schedule.   Remember that Dental Assisting is like learning a new skill.  Ask how much time you spend doing clinicals.  What is the student to instructor ratio?  I think those are the most important questions.