Dental Assisting

What does a Dental Assistant do? Is it hard work? Do I have to put my fingers in mouths?
Dental Assisting is a very exciting and challenging profession which offers a variety of tasks in a clean, pleasant environment. It provides the personal rewards and satisfaction that come from serving others. Dentistry is, however, an exacting and highly disciplined health field that requires a high level of mental concentration and physical endurance from each team member, Yes, we do put our gloved fingers into our patient’s mouths.

What personal attributes and physical abilities does a Dental Assistant need?
Although a multitude of personality types are found in Dental Assisting, there are some shared attributes and abilities. A Dental Assistant must reflect optimum mental and physical health; also, good finger dexterity and eye-hand coordination are essential. Dental Assistants should have a sincere interest in and concern for people and be able to work and communicate effectively as team members.

Is formal training a prerequisite to working in a dental office?
While formal training is NOT a requisite to employment as a Dental Assistant in North Carolina, lack of it certainly limits the individual’s value to the dentist. Remember that certain clearly defined functions, such as dental radiography and coronal polishing can be performed ONLY by the formally trained assistant.

What kinds of courses are included in the program? Are there any prerequisite courses or courses I should take in high school?
Although there are no specific prerequisite courses required for admission, background in math and the sciences, particularly chemistry, physics, biology, and keyboarding are recommended. Additionally, participation in health occupation courses is highly advantageous. Guilford Technical Community College provides developmental courses for applicants who do not meet established levels of competence in reading, writing, math, and study skills required for full admission into the program.

Is the program hard? Is there much homework? Do classes last all day?
While the level of difficulty varies with each course, students describe the content as “quite thorough”. Thus, we utilize a variety of teaching styles and methods in a relaxed, warm atmosphere to assist students with their mastery of course material.

Students describe the amount of homework as moderate to heavy. The fast pace that is necessary to cover the required material adds to the level of difficulty for some students. While we recommend that students not work during enrollment, some students do hold part-time evening or weekend jobs and maintain required levels of academic success.

Classes are scheduled from approximately 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday during the first semester. The hours increase during clinical courses.

Are there any male Dental Assistants?
GTCC has had one male graduate from our Dental Assisting program. There are male Dental Assistants employed in military dental clinics, and we would welcome more male applicants into the program.

How is dental hygiene different from dental assisting? Do courses taken in Dental Assisting transfer into Dental Hygiene?
A dental hygienist is a graduate of a two-year, Associate Degree program while formally trained dental assistants are graduated from one-year diploma programs. Hygienists MUST pass clinical and written exams to be licensed and eligible to practice in the State of North Carolina while a dental assistant does not. As would be expected, salaries for dental hygienists are higher than those of dental assistants. The dental hygienist works under the supervision of the dentist to provide oral examinations, dental prophylaxis, dental radiographs, and oral health education to patients. The dental assistant on the other hand works at chair side with the dentist (preparing materials, passing instruments, evacuating fluids and debris) and performs other functions such as dental x-rays, laboratory procedures, office management procedures (appointment control, supply inventory, patient recall, chart management), infection control (cleaning operatories, sterilizing instruments, wearing personal protection equipment) and patient education. Both team members are highly recruited and are valuable assets to a dental practice.

How do I get admitted into the program?
Learn more about GTCC’s admissions process.

How can I get Financial Aid or a scholarship?
How to Apply for Financial Aid
Free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

How much will I have to pay for books? Can I resell them?
Visit the GTCC Bookstore Website where you can find this information.