Submitted by Charter College

Elizabeth Hoops began her dental assistant career more than 30 years ago. She’s still having fun helping people with their smiles, though now she’s doing it by teaching future dental assistants the tricks of the trade to help them find the same satisfaction she has experienced over the last three decades.

Charter College Dental Certificates
Charter College offers Certificates in Dental Assisting, which prepare students for entry-level employment as Chairside Dental Assistants or Dental X-Ray Technicians in dental offices. Photo courtesy: Charter College

She began the educational phase of her career six years ago when she joined the Charter College campus in Vancouver. She has been the lead dental assistant instructor since 2014.

Hoops says she got into the field partly because of the influence of her family dentist when she was growing up. “I loved his approach to his craft and that he used to sing Frank Sinatra all the time,” she says. “He told me when I was a child that I would be working with him someday and that prediction came true after I earned my associate degree in chairside assisting.”

The Job

Dental assistants work under the supervision of dentists performing a variety of patient care, office and laboratory duties. Responsibilities may include sterilizing and disinfecting instruments and equipment, preparing and laying out materials, taking dental x-rays and processing x-ray film. During dental procedures, assistants work alongside the dentist.

Hoops says her career has been gratifying because she gets to help people maintain one of the most important parts of them – their smiles. She does this when they’re in the chair, but also afterward by giving them the information they need to take care of their own oral hygiene.

“Working with patients is my calling,” she says. “I love sitting with the dentist, recording the treatment plan and then delivering the plan that makes the most sense.”

As with most fields, it has changed tremendously over the last few decades. She says advanced technology, along with greater education and focus on dental hygiene, helps people look forward to their dental visits. “This has all helped make dentistry a tolerable experience, rather than something they dread,” she says.

Hoops says all of these options make the role of the dental assistant even more valuable. “We discuss our patients’ concerns with the dentist,” she says. “And then we do whatever we can to make the experience as pleasant as possible for them.”

The Education

Charter College offers Certificates in Dental Assisting, which prepare students for entry-level employment as Chairside Dental Assistants or Dental X-Ray Technicians in dental offices.

Charter College Dental Assistant Training
Charter College students learning hands-on what goes into a career in dental assisting. Photo courtesy: Charter College

The 10-month program includes:

  • Didactic, laboratory and clinical instruction in chair-side assisting procedures
  • Infection control and treatment procedures
  • Basic training in front office procedures

Charter College’s innovative Blended Learning curriculum combines hands-on classroom and work experience with online education. This schedule offers students more flexibility with their schedules, allowing them to work and manage family life. It saves them daily travel time and expenses, offering them the convenience of learning from home blended with hands-on learning and support. Prior to graduation, students also complete an externship in a dental office or clinic to gain additional work experience.

Hoops says dental assisting is a great career for people who are compassionate and good communicators. “It’s definitely a career where you get to interact with patients,” she says, adding that it’s also important to value being part of a team.

The Demand

As Baby Boomers get older and retire, they’re opening up employment opportunities, while also tending to need more healthcare themselves. The silver tsunami, as it has been called, is creating demand in all healthcare fields, including dental assisting. The aging population and ongoing research linking oral health and general health will continue to increase the demand for preventive dental services.

If you’re a compassionate and communicative person interested in a fulfilling career in healthcare, you might consider a career as a dental assistant.

Details on the Charter College dental assisting program are available on the Charter College website or by calling 888-200-9942.

Charter College is a private, independent institution of higher education, providing students with a career-focused education in growing job fields that include health care, business, information technology, aviation and select trades. Charter College operates college campuses in Washington, California, Alaska, New Mexico and Arizona, and operates an online program. For more information, visit the Charter College website.

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