Dental care requires a team approach, and dental assisting students at the College of Dentistry are learning how to be key members of the oral health team.
Students in the program receive specialized training and hands-on learning to prepare themselves for professional practice, but the program's biggest advantage is the opportunity to learn and work alongside students in the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) program.
The amount of hands-on, clinic-based learning appealed to Azaela Flamont, who will graduate from the program this spring. Flamont knew she wanted a career in health care and researched several programs before choosing dental assisting.
“Being able to work with the some of the dental students has really made it rewarding,” she said. “I got to see how much a dental assistant is worth in the clinic and how big of a role we have. Being able to know my worth and my importance in a dental team has really made it rewarding.”
Dental assisting at the College of Dentistry is a direct-entry program. It offers high school graduates and mature students a 10-month learning opportunity that prepares them to enter the workforce upon graduation. Many students also see the program as a way to explore their interest in oral health care or as a steppingstone to further training.
The application for the fall 2023 dental assisting cohort is open until May 1, 2023. More information and the program applications is available on the USask Admissions website.
The majority of the program's students enter directly out of high school. Dental assisting attracts students who are interested health care, taking care of people and being in a people-type profession. Many have a particular interest in oral health; they may be thinking about a career in dentistry or dental hygiene and dental assisting is an opportunity to gain experience in a dental practice.
For student Jed Doctolero, dental assisting was a perfect match with his passion for caring for others.
“I chose dental assisting because I have always loved working as a team member and I love working with people and patients,” Doctolero said. “Working at a care home for two years really expanded my social skills and made me love working with people more. That is why I chose dental assisting, because it is a 10-month program and you really get to work hands-on with other people, especially at USask.”
Students spend the first seven months immersed in classroom and preclinic learning. The program’s curriculum addresses the wide variety of skills that dental assistants require for a successful career including clinical foundations, preventative and restorative procedures, infection control, recordkeeping, dental radiography, and professional practice.
During their final 12 weeks students spend most of their time assisting dental students in the college’s Dental Education Clinic as part of an internal practicum. That hands-on learning experience is a big reason why graduates of the USask program are fully prepared to contribute the dental team following graduation.
Practicing dentists notice a big difference between College of Dentistry graduates and ones coming from other programs because USask grads have extensive chair-side experience with the dentistry students. Before they get into private practice, program graduates have already learned the necessary teamwork and have a lot of confidence in their skills.
Employment opportunities for graduating dental assistants are many, with practices throughout the province regularly recruiting team members.
The USask program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada. Successful completion of the National Dental Assisting Examining Board exam allows students to license with the Saskatchewan Dental Assistants' Association and work anywhere in Canada.