MIDWEST TECHNICAL INSTITUTE — EAST PEORIA
280 High Point Lane
East Peoria, IL 61611
MON–FRI: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
This episode of Imagine America Radio is brought to you by Ambassador Education Solutions. For more than five decades, schools have trusted Ambassador to power their course materials programs, including print, digital, OER, devices, kits, and more. Unlike any other technology on the market, Ambassador’s revolutionary Course Materials Platform, RODA, aggregates all print and digital materials, and layers it with integrations, single point access, support services, analytics, financial controls, and compliance—all through one flexible and easy-to-use platform, and all at no additional fee. For more information, please visit Ambassador’s website: www.ambassadored.com.
280 High Point Lane
East Peoria, IL 61611
MON–FRI: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Joining us on this episode is DANIELLE BOETTGER, the Dental assistant program director for Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College.
Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College have six locations, located in Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi. They are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
Lee Doubleday: Joining us today is Danielle Boettger, dental assistant program director of Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College. Today, we’d like to discuss dental assistant careers. As a leading provider of education in dental assisting, we couldn’t think of anybody better to call than Danielle Boettger with Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College.
So why don’t we start off by telling our listeners exactly what a dental assistant is? Can you briefly explain what a dental assistant does?
Danielle Boettger: Absolutely. So, a dental assistant is the dentist’s right-hand man. They work directly with the dentist, performing procedures such as fillings, crowns and bridges, root canals, extractions, and other oral surgeries, dentures, partials, and various other dental procedures. They do everything from setting up operatories and trays to transferring instruments during the procedures. They suction the oral cavity to keep the mouth free of water and debris so that the dentist can see what they’re doing. They disinfect the operatories after procedures. They sterilize the instruments, and they also communicate with patients regarding procedures and post-ops.
Lee: So, it really sounds like they do a good job of making sure that everything runs smoothly for the dentist. Is that right?
Danielle: Absolutely. They are the dentist’s right-hand man. They can’t operate without us.
Lee: All right. That’s great. Okay. Well, so tell me a little bit about the career outlook, maybe both on a national level and then maybe a little bit more granular where you have campuses.
Danielle: So, on a national level, the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there is a projected—by 2029—a projected number to hire 378,000 dental assistants across the country. In Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi alone, the BLS predicts the need for 19,440 dental assistants in that same time period. So, dentistry is definitely evolving, and there’s always a need for dental assistants.
Lee: Wow. It seems like something worth getting an education in. So, should someone go to school to learn how to become a dental assistant? And what does a typical dental assistant program include? And how long is a typical dental assistant program? I know that’s sort of a three-parted question.
Danielle: That’s okay. So, an education in dental assisting is absolutely necessary. There is so much knowledge to gain in this career field. Typically, a dental assistant program will include hands-on training in a lab setting, as well as theory in the classroom setting. For each procedure that you learn in class, you’ll have the opportunity to implement those in the lab as well.
At Midwest Tech and Delta Technical Institute, our students also complete real-life training in a dental office prior to graduating. They actually complete 225 clinical hours in a dental practice on real patients. A typical dental assistant program is anywhere from 9 months to a year. Our program here is 9 months. They’ll do 6 months on campus and then 3 months doing their dental assisting externship where they’re actually in a dental office.
Lee: Awesome. Okay. So, in 9 months, you could potentially get an education with Midwest Tech or Delta Tech—and then graduate and be off into the workforce working for dentistry.
Lee: That’s awesome. I think that’s fantastic. And I love how you’ve broken up the program to include actual hours in a dentistry as part of the program necessary to graduate.
So let’s say I’m a student and I’m interested in becoming a dental assistant. When I tour a campus offer in this program, what are a few things that I should be looking for? It seems like a program such as this is going to require up-to-date equipment in order to stay relevant with current work environments. Would the equipment that the school uses be something I should consider? And what else should I be considering—maybe accreditation, the length of the program, and then—most importantly, what I would assume I should be considering is relationships with employers because, at the end of the day, you’re going to school to get a job. So can you kind of talk to some things I should be looking for?
Danielle: Those are all important things to be looking for. You should also be looking for placement ratings at that institute of your choice. How many students do they actually land jobs? Do they help with placement assistance? Those are important. The length of the program, that is also very important. Like I said, our program is nine months. Accreditation is very important and a lot of the dental boards from different states do require you to have course completion from an accredited school, so that’s definitely something to consider as well. And then a positive environment. You need to attend an institute that wants to invest in you, where everyone is upbeat and encouraging and really wants to see you be successful.
Lee: Yeah. That’s a good point. I like what you said. You want to make sure the school is accredited, and it has a positive outlook on your future as a student. You want to make sure the school has your back, for lack of a better way of putting it, and wants you to be successful, which I know you’re going to get at Midwest and Delta Tech. So, I like that you said that.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about relationships with employers. Is that something that a student should be considering? I mean, I know you mentioned placement rates, and I understand that, and students really should take a—I mean, especially nowadays, if you’re going to go to school, you really should look at placement rates. But can you kind of talk a little bit about Midwest Tech and Delta Tech’s relationship with employers?
Danielle: Absolutely. So, it is very important to us at Midwest Tech and Delta Tech to build strong relationships with our employers. We send these students out to these dental offices to complete their externships and therefore, by doing so, we have the opportunity to build relationships and many of the students get hired based off of their externship experience. And ultimately, that is our goal. To send those students to an externship site, where they can basically do a working interview during their externship, and ultimately get hired. That is our goal. So, relationships with employers are something that we highly focus on.
Lee: Yeah. And you clearly have a relationship with the employers if three months of their nine-month program is going to be spent with an employer. What a great opportunity as a student to put your name in the hat and let the employer see who you are, and what you can do, and what you’re capable of. I mean, I like what you said about students being able to be—maybe they’re even offered a job before they even graduate. I mean, that’s just—that’s fantastic.
So let’s say I’m someone who’s wondering if maybe dental assisting is a good fit for me. What would you say are three or four personality traits that make a great dental assistant that might help identify people who are deciding whether or not dental assistant would be a good choice for them?
Danielle: So, in order to be a successful dental assistant, you’ve got to be detail-oriented. Different restorations have to fit on a tooth just right. If you’re choosing a shade for maybe dentures, or a partial, or maybe a crown, that shade has to match the other tooth just perfect. You also have to be well-spoken. The majority of the communicating done in a dental office is actually done by the dental assistant or the front office staff, not so much by the dentist. So, after that dentist leaves the room, the dental assistant will be answering a lot of their questions and helping to clarify exactly what’s going on throughout that procedure. Another thing would be a sense of urgency. You’ve got to schedule to stick to and it’s very important to stick to that schedule, so you have to have a sense of urgency to do that. And very important is compassion. You are there to help comfort the nervous patients, to help them feel at ease, and help them get through that procedure. Going to the dentist is not easy for everyone, so you have to be able to be compassionate and show that to your patients.
Lee: Yeah. I’m glad you mentioned that because I am definitely one of those nervous patients. [laughter] And I’m sure that many of our listeners are too. Going to the dentist is always a little bit nerve-wracking, but I think what you’re doing is great. I think you’re educating people to be able to enter the workforce as a dental assistant and you’re making sure they have all of these characteristics that are going to make them successful in the field. And your placement rates and your relationship with employers speak for themselves, so I really—I want to thank you for joining us today on our podcast and having such a great conversation about dental assisting and the future of dental assistant careers.
If you would like more information on Midwest Technical Institute or Delta Technical College, please make sure you check out our website, which is www.imagine-america.org/podcast, for the show notes. There will be links there for you to be able to check out Midwest Tech and Delta Tech. There’ll also be links on that page for you to be able to apply for a scholarship to go to any one of these two institutions as well.
But I want to thank you very much for spending your time with us today, Danielle, and really appreciate your time.
Danielle: Thanks for having me.