Program Spotlight WCCC Dental Programs

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For most people, a trip to the dentist doesn’t make them smile; however, well-trained dental hygienists and assistants can help make the visit much more pleasant.

WCCC’s dental programs, located at the Youngwood campus, offer three options to pursue a career as a dental hygienist or assistant: Dental Hygiene associate degree program, Dental Assisting diploma program and Expanded Functions Dental Assisting certificate program. The WCCC Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association, a special accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Our graduates are highly sought after because employers know they have received excellent training and experience in this program.”

Dental Hygiene, AAS

A dental hygienist is a preventive oral health professional licensed to provide educational, clinical and therapeutic services to patients. They clean teeth, examine patients for diseases such as gingivitis and provide other preventative dental care. In addition, dental hygienists also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.

The WCCC Dental Hygiene associate degree program provides a scientifically current, competency-based curriculum focusing on mental, psychomotor and affective education which is essential to become a competent dental hygienist. Students receive both didactic and hands-on instruction in patient assessment, treatment planning, providing patient education, scaling and root debridement, taking dental x-rays, sealant placement and providing other preventive therapies. The program includes classroom instruction as well as hands-on experience in the college’s dental hygiene clinic, while preparing to sit for the national, state or regional exam in dental hygiene.

“WCCC’s dental hygiene students are provided extensive educational opportunities during their clinical experience, which prepares them well for the workforce,” said Angela Rinchuse, WCCC professor/director of the Dental Hygiene program.

“Our graduates are highly sought after because employers know they have received excellent training and experience in this program.”

Dental Assisting, Diploma

Dental assistants have many tasks ranging from patient care to record keeping. Dental assistants’ duties require interpersonal and technical skills and may include sterilizing dental equipment, preparing the work area for patient treatment, assisting dentists by handing them instruments during procedures, keeping records of dental treatments, scheduling patient appointments and working with patients on billing and payments.

WCCC’s shorter-term Dental Assisting diploma program prepares students to become valuable members of a dental care team. The program includes classroom instruction as well as hands-on experience in the college’s dental clinic during their first semester.  WCCC students assist University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine students in all specialties during their second semester and complete their third semester by working as a dental assistant in a private dental practice.

“Our program provides an extensive clinical experience for students in preparation to sit for the Dental Assisting National Board,” said Mary Kay Huesdash, WCCC professor/director of the Dental Assisting program.

“Upon program completion, our graduates are well-prepared for full-time positions which are now abundant in this area.”

Expanded Functions Dental Assisting, Certificate

This two-semester certificate program in Expanded Functions Dental Assisting (EFDA) provides advanced training for current dental assistants and dental hygienists to acquire additional essential skills. Completing the certification allows the dental professional to work under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist. They are able to place fillings and sealants after a dentist prepares the tooth.

“By enrolling in the EFDA program, current dental hygienists and assistants can add a new dimension to their professional career in just two semesters,” said Joan Donofrio, WCCC assistant professor/director of the Expanded Functions Dental Assisting program.

“Plus, the program is offered in the evenings, making it convenient for working professionals to acquire additional skills.”

Career Information

From 2010 through 2020, employment of dental hygienists and dental assistants is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations, 38 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Ongoing research linking oral health and general health will continue to spur the demand for preventative dental services, which are often provided by dental hygienists. And, as dental practices grow, more dental assistants will be needed.*

Salaries for hygienists and assistants are attractive. In May 2010, the median annual wages of dental hygienists were $68,250 and $33,470 for dental assistants. Earnings will vary by geographic location, employment setting and years of experience.*

While most dental hygienists and assistants practice in private dental offices, alternative career opportunities are available. These include dental specialty practices, hospital and industrial clinics, correctional institutions, government health agencies, insurance companies and military services. With additional education through degree completion programs, dental hygienists also work in school systems, dental and dental hygiene education programs, dental sales and research.

Dental Lab/Clinic

The WCCC Dental Hygiene Clinic provides an opportunity for members of the community to receive safe, quality dental services at a reasonable cost ranging from $15 to $20. The 12-chair clinic, open to adults and children, is staffed by dental hygiene students who are supervised by licensed dental professionals. As a free service to the community, each January the college holds “Sealant Saturday” where under the supervision of dentists and registered dental hygienists, students apply sealants to children’s teeth to prevent tooth decay. The regular clinic runs mid-August through July at the Youngwood campus and operates on a reasonable fee-for-service basis.

Pam Hollick

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