Students in MCC’s Dental Assisting program have a unique educational advantage over their peers at other colleges – they get to work directly with a dentist while gaining real-world experience in the Dental Clinic located on the main campus in Flint.
Denise Polk, DDS, is the Coordinator of the Dental Assisting program at MCC, and she takes her role as educator and mentor seriously. “Our students learn Dental Assisting from professionals in the field who are doing the work on a daily basis,” she said, adding “not all accredited programs have a dentist working directly with students. Having a dentist teaching and approving students’ work gives them a deeper knowledge of dentistry.”
Additionally, students learn using state-of-the-art equipment giving them competency in the latest technology such as digital radiography, a digital panoramic machine that creates an x-ray of the entire facial structure and skull with one image. Students also gain real-world experience during two externships, spending a total of 10 weeks in two different dental offices as part of their graduation requirements.
“Our students are highly requested across the state because they are so well prepared for the workforce,” Dr. Polk said. “Most of our recent graduating class of Dental Assistants were employed after they completed their externship, and they all had jobs soon after graduation,” she added.
Not only do students gain real-world experience in the Dental Clinic on campus, but they also apply the lessons they learn in the classroom through service learning projects.
“Dr. Polk has done a wonderful job connecting her Dental Assisting students to service learning opportunities in the community,” said Rebecca Myszenski, Dean of the Health Sciences Division at MCC. “Dental Assisting students have partnered with the Sloan Museum to pair Dental Health awareness with the popular Clifford the Big Red Dog exhibit, and worked with Hamilton Community Dental Health on ‘Give Kids a Smile Day.’ ”
The job market for Dental Assistants is expected to grow by 19 percent through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, representing a growth of 64,600 new jobs nationwide. The news is even better for certified Dental Assistants. A 2017 report by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) shows that Dental Assistants who hold DANB CDA certification earn more per hour than non-certified assistants. DANB Certified Dental Assistants earn $20.46 versus Non-DANB Certified Dental Assistants who earn $17.76.
At MCC, students who pursue a certificate in Dental Assisting can start in the Fall Semester, after taking all the prerequisites, and finish the certificate in one year. The certificate program prepares students to take the Michigan State Board Examination for licensure as a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA), and the National Board Examination to be a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA). The Dental Assisting certificate is a 42- credit hour program with 70 contact hours.
The Dental Assisting Certificate is a stackable degree, meaning that students may choose to continue their education and pursue a Dental Assisting Associate Degree in Applied Science. The associate’s degree prepares students to become Clinical Dental Assistants, enabling them to be directly involved in patient care, work closely with dentists, and have expanded functions to provide certain intraoral procedures for patients. The Dental Assisting associate’s degree program also prepares students to take the Michigan State Board Examination for licensure as a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA), and the National Board Examination to be a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA). The associate’s degree is a 67- credit hour program with 99 contact hours.
The advantage of obtaining an associate’s degree in Dental Assisting will allow a student to continue their studies and transfer general education courses to pursue a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree or even higher. Earning advanced degrees allows them to become educators in Dental Assisting programs, transition from Dental Assisting to Dental Hygiene, or continue their education to become a Dentist, according to Dr. Polk.
Some students transition from Dental Assisting to Dental Hygiene as well, she said. Other career possibilities include: Dental Laboratory Technician, Dental Hygienist, Health Specialties Teacher, Postsecondary Medical and Health Services Manager, Sales Representative, Wholesale and Manufacturing industry representative, and Technical and Scientific Products sales.
MCC’s Dental Assisting program is accredited by the Commission of Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association and the State of Michigan.