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In Washington state, you’re not required to complete an academic program to begin your career as a Dental Assistant. In lieu of schooling, some people pursue on-the-job training to build their skills in the field.

Which path is right for you?

To make your decision, there are some important considerations to weigh. As you review these factors below, keep the following question at the top of your mind: “Which route will give me the best chance to get the position I want achieve my long-term goals?”

Getting started

Top of the list of considerations should be your ability to get the job in the first place. Dental Assisting is one of the most in-demand careers, so there’s a lot of competition.

On-the-job training

For on-the-job training, the biggest obstacle is securing an opportunity in the first place. Whether it’s an internship, volunteer role, or full-time position, you can’t simply walk into a dental practice and get a job.

Most dental practices don’t want to hire anyone without some previous experience or education. And because there’s so much competition, they don’t have to! While it’s possible to find a practice that’s willing to give you a chance, it’s definitely a challenge.

Most people who take the work experience route start as a front desk assistant, slowly learning the ins-and-outs of the office with the hope of working their way into a Dental Assisting role in the future. Either that, or they have a good connection that helps gets them through the door.

Looking for a job in Oregon?

Keep in mind that Oregon has different requirements than Washington. To secure any Dental Assisting position in Oregon, you must pass a series of Oregon licensing exams (or have 1,000 hours of work experience from another state, like Washington.)

Dental Assisting school

Applying for and being accepted to a dental assisting school is easier than many people think. Very few students have any previous healthcare experience when applying because it’s not necessary!

The goal of a Dental Assisting school is to help you develop the skills and confidence you need to succeed. So if you have a high school diploma, are motivated, and have the right traits and personality, getting accepted into a program is simple.

You won’t be paid for your time in school, but once you complete the program, you’ll be equipped to immediately start in a Dental Assisting position. You won’t need to spend months (or even years) in a low-paying role, trying to work your way up and gain the right skills.

Environment considerations

Your entire learning experience changes based on whether you take the on-the-job training route or attend a Dental Assisting program. Depending on your learning style and personality, you need to consider these differences.

On-the-job training

The best on-the-job trained Dental Assistants must be highly motivated and have the ability to learn in a high-stress, fast-paced environment will little room for mistakes.

Since you’re learning new skills inside a working dental practice, you don’t have a lot ability to review concepts and practice procedures and techniques before assisting with a real patient treatment. However, since you’ll be working with patients, you’ll quickly learn how provide personal, compassionate care.

Additionally, this type of setting will not be catered to your learning. You’ll need to be ready to learn as you go, starting from scratch and piecing together information and techniques as you go.

Dental Assisting school

Dental Assisting school offers a much more controlled environment and a safe place for you to learn, practice, and perfect your skills.

Instead of being thrown into the thick on your very first day, this type of learning environment is structured and builds upon classroom lecture and hands-on dental assistant training experience to ensure you have a strong foundation of knowledge.

There’s no risk of accidentally learning a bad habit — you’ll be explicitly shown how to do something and will have many opportunities to ask questions and understand the “why.”

At Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School, all our students receive a combination of classroom lecture, lab practice, and hands-on training from a doctor in a real dental practice with real patients. This well-rounded training program allows students the opportunity to learn in multiple environments.

Learning the fundamental principles

In addition to how you’ll learn the skills, it’s important to consider what you’ll learn. You may be surprised to know that you won’t learn the same exact thing in both types of environments.

On-the-job training

When you’re learning on the go, it’s not as likely that the dentist or dental hygienist you’re training under will teach the fundamental aspects of dental assisting. I

On-the-job training focuses on quickly bringing you up to speed on how to perform the duty (not necessarily the why or the science behind it.) Additionally, many on-the-job training is grounded in customer service, teaching you the important things that ensure you can provide a good experience to the patient.

Dental Assisting school

A Dental Assisting program provides a well-rounded, comprehensive education. You’ll learn standardized methods for performing techniques and procedures as well as the theories behind them.

The goal of a Dental Assisting school is to provide you with a strong foundation so you not only understand what and how to do something, but why.

For example, here at Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School, in addition to learning how to provide good care and service to patients, our students receive a thorough introduction to the dental field, including:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Dental charting and billing
  • Dental equipment and technology
  • The role of a Dental Assistant and how they work with hygienists, dentists, and laboratory technicians.

Other important topics we’ll cover include:

  • Sterilization, Disinfection &
  • Treatment Room Care
  • Radiography Safety & Techniques
  • Cements & Dental Impressions
  • Restorative Dental Care
  • Assisting With Specialized Dental Procedures
  • Cosmetic Dentistry & Tooth
  • Whitening Treatments
  • CPR Certification

Learn More About Our Program

Get the best of both worlds at Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School

If you’re the kind of learner who thrives off of a combination of classroom learning and hands-on training, you don’t have to choose between the two.

At Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School, our 12-week program offer the best of both worlds. In addition to 144 hours of classroom study from our experienced instructor, our program also includes a 50-hour Dental Assisting internship at our on-site dental practice.

We provide all the training and education you need to begin your career right away and with the best chance for success.

Ready to get started? View our current class schedule or apply online today.