Did you know...
Some states report that 90% of practices in the country have recruited for a dental assistant in the last year and 40% of those vacancies remained unfilled.
Advantage Dental's In-House Dental Assistant Training Program
In late 2020, Advantage Dental launched a Dental Assistant Pathways pilot project that would train individuals with no previous dental experience to become a dental assistant. In addition, Advantage Dental has partnered with other Oregon agencies to develop a secondary pathway designed to create a new dual role position, working both as a dental assistant and traditional health worker within a dental practice. Training is available for those with certification in either role to gain the experience necessary to be dual certified. This dual role will allow the individual to assist in the provision of care while providing support as a patient navigator, assisting patients by removing barriers to care and identifying and mitigating unmet social needs.
The goal is to employ 60 dental assistant/patient navigators in Advantage Dental practices throughout Oregon within a three-year period. The program addresses a workforce shortage while increasing the diversity of the workforce and improving access to care.
Innovative Solutions for Workforce Challenges
Alicia Melendez, Dental Assistant Lead Trainer, has been tasked with developing, implementing and managing Advantage Dental’s new dental assistant training program. She has over 30 years of dental assisting experience working in several dental practices. She has provided care through Medical Teams International doing mobile dentistry, and worked in numerous academia programs including overseeing 17 dental assisting programs across the United States as a National Academic Dean. Additionally, she has served as expert reviewer in the textbook ‘The Modern Dental Assistant’ for Elsevier; a globally recognized publisher and textbook.
“The new Dental Assistant Pathways training program is designed to onboard a new employee while observing and building upon their strengths and weaknesses. This also allows the new employee to gain a firm understanding of the Advantage Dental culture and mission. New dental assistants are developed in a very short period and are provided the tools and support to be confident, knowledgeable and successful in their role,” Alicia states.
The 5-10 day program (length of the program is based on the employee’s incoming experience level) is thoughtfully designed; guiding a designated trainer through an hour-by-hour and day-by-day curriculum with the new dental assistant. The detailed syllabus minimizes the risk of overlooking or forgetting a topic and ensures the new employee is shown the daily tasks and objectives needed to perform their job to the best of their ability.
Become a Rock Star in the Dental Field
For those new to dental assisting, the program is created in such a way to best acclimate the new employee to patient-centered care and what their responsibilities and duties looks like. Things like infection control processes, working with our patient electronic records and gradually working them into clinical chairside assistance and skills are reviewed and put into practice by working hands on.
By having a dedicated trainer, new dental assistants are exposed to patient care, able to ask questions, receive support material on dental terminology and can gain a firm understanding what dental assisting really consists of.
“It is definitely a short program; however, we know our dentists and lead dental assistants will be working with our new dental assistants after the 10 days to build upon their foundational knowledge they gained,” Alicia mentions.
Though trainings are accelerated and completed over a short period of time, new dental assistants are supported by Alicia, the practice manager, dentists and other lead dental assistants in their continued career growth. The expectation is continued development beyond the training period by working with dentists to enhance clinical skills.
“Dental assisting can open many doors. It is a great career path with solid employability and satisfaction. You may enjoy dental assisting because you have a passion to help others or simply because you want a career opportunity with growth and recognition. You never know where dental assisting can take you,” Alicia says.
With time and experience, dental assistants can expand upon their skills and certify in dental radiology as well as other expanded functions or even be considered for or apply to internal positions as a Dental Assistant II or Lead Dental Assistant. Advantage Dental supports employees who wish to grow into management or other roles within the organization.
Whether you are just starting out or experienced we have on-the-job training to support and help you advance your career.