On The Record
Under the guidance of Washtenaw Community College faculty members Kathleen Weber, Kristina Sprague and Jodi Neuman, students in the college’s Dental Assisting program learn a broad array of skills to become certified dental assistants. The program also offers the chance to earn a certificate and an Associate in Applied Science degree.
“Our program is designed to teach students about the importance of preventive dentistry as a way to help patients avoid more serious health issues,” Sprague said. “They receive experience in a laboratory and clinical environment so they understand dental therapeutics, radiology techniques and oral pathology.”
The program includes classes in preventive dentistry, dental materials, oral diagnosis and dental practice management. Additionally, students receive clinical laboratory experience on the WCC campus, at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and in two private dental offices in Washtenaw County.
“Our students get the experience of working chairside with a dentist,” Sprague added. “This allows them to form a partnership with the dentist and the patient. Their role is crucial to help alleviate a patient’s fears, educate them on good hygiene practices and encourage them to be proactive with their oral health care.”
Graduates of the program are eligible to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam offered by the Dental Assisting National Board and the Registered Dental Assistant exam offered by the Michigan Board of Dentistry. Currently, the job market is strong for dental assistants and many alumni of the program find employment immediately after graduation.
In addition to course work, the program stresses the importance of giving back to those in the community in need of dental services.
This summer, a group of eight WCC dental assisting students, along with their instructors, volunteered at the Michigan Dental Association’s Mission of Mercy event, which drew close to 1,300 people. The goal was to bring dentists, dental assistants and hygienists together to provide free dental care to underserved and uninsured patients.
“I could not be more proud of our students who volunteered,” Sprague said. “Each student came away with a renewed passion and inspiration to continue their dental assisting studies. They became a part of the process of caring for a patient, alleviating their pain and restoring their self-esteem. It was an honor for me to watch them blossom.”