Local partnership training people to become dental assistants

Jan. 14, 2002
CDAs are needed to fill critical vacancies in dental offices throughout the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore metropolitan areas.

A local partnership has launched a program to train people from a variety of work backgrounds to become certified dental assistants (CDAs). CDAs are needed to fill critical vacancies in dental offices throughout the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore metropolitan areas.

Prizm Dental Partners of McLean, Va., and McKane and Associates of Frederick, Md., plan to sponsor the 15-week course quarterly. The first course began in October, and the next is slated for March.

Unlike most college programs for dental assistants that require day classes, the new program is held on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings so it is accessible to working students, explains Ondine Doore, vice president of operations for Prizm Dental Partners.

Doore says the program also provides other benefits to students and the community:

* Better job opportunities -- Dental assistant careers are booming despite the economic recession. "Look at all the want ads for dental assistants in local papers," Doore says, noting that Prizm's 36 dentists alone report there are four dental assistant vacancies that they are having difficulty filling. The program's first course includes a front desk receptionist who wants to train for a dental career, as well as a dental assistant who feels certification will help her land a prime job when her family relocates in the next year.

* Increased pay -- Front desk staff and dental assistants without certification make a maximum $10 to $12 an hour locally, Doore estimates. CDAs, on the other hand, can earn up to $16 to $18 an hour with experience. They also have a strong foundation for becoming dental hygienists, who average $30 to $35 an hour.

* Improved dental care -- Dental assistants help dentists and patients in a variety of ways. Dental assistants, for example, work side-by-side with dentists during surgeries and cosmetic procedures. They must be skilled at using such equipment as intra oral cameras to take live photos of teeth, lasers to trim tissue inside the mouth, and model trimmers to trim molds of teeth. Dental assistants also play an important role in educating patients about proper oral care. Dental assistants who are certified offer added assurance that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide the best quality care, Doore says.

'Unique Partnership'
The joint venture is a one-of-a-kind partnership in the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area, according to Doore. Prizm Dental Partners, a business partnership that represents 36 area dentists, provides the facilities to host the program, as well as logistical support and expertise. McKane & Associates, a full-service management firm for healthcare professionals, developed the course curriculum and provides clinical expertise and program management.

The deadline to apply for the course beginning in March is Feb. 15. Each class is limited to 13 students. The program also is accepting applications for future classes. To apply, please contact Prizm Dental Partners at 703-288-9100 ext. 116. Participants must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent degree, and meet other requirements.