Want to become a Dental Assistant?
Hear from the Director of the Program, herself, Rita Perry.
Q: How long have you been teaching in the Dental Assisting program?
A: I have had the good fortune to be involved with the PC Dental Assisting program as program director since 2006, residential faculty since 2001, and involved as adjunct faculty before that.
Q: Why would you recommend it over other dental programs?
A: I can attest to the incredibly high standards that we have for our student outcomes, program competencies, and training processes. Since the program started, in 1964, it has been accredited by the American Dental Association, which is optional in AZ. PC has remained committed all of these years to invest in maintaining these high standards for dental assisting training, education, and preparation for the workforce. We are the only accredited dental assisting program north of Tucson! The preparation of our students for the local dental workforce is unparalleled. Obviously as part of the Maricopa Community Colleges system, the education also has the best affordability over other programs.
Q: What’s one of the most rewarding parts about your job?
A: I am constantly rewarded in this job! However, it is of utmost satisfaction when students are offered dental assisting positions before they are even graduated. I truly enjoy observing our students in their externships where they have the opportunity to really shine in their skills. But beyond that, the compassionate person that they are, which drew them to a healthcare profession in the first place, is given an opportunity to use their new skills and knowledge to help others. I love to see them find joy in comforting nervous patients, help a patient understand a treatment plan, assist the dentist in a complicated procedure, or give back to the community in an outreach event.
Q: How many dental assisting sub-degrees or certificates are there? Can a student specialize in one area in dentistry through PC?
A: We offer both a Certificate of Completion and the Associates in Applied Science in Dental Assisting. Our dental assisting curriculum is designed to prepare students for “general dentistry”, but the students also get an introduction to specialty dentistry, however there are not separate certificates for such. Some students will participate in specialty areas of dentistry for their externships, such as Oral Surgery, or Pediatric, or Public Health dentistry. All of our students are prepared for the state required certificates for dental x-ray and dental polishing.
We are excited that our PC Center for Continuing Dental Education began a non-credit “Expanded Dental Assistant” Program about 1½ years ago and has produced about 40 new “EFDA’s” in the AZ workforce - with programing continuing each semester. This elevates our profession and provides increased access to dental care by allowing both dental assistants and dental hygienists with this additional training and certification to provide fillings and other services that previously only dentists could provide.
Q: What is one of the hardest, but most rewarding parts of the program?
A: If you mean hardest for the student, I would say committing to a full-time program of this intensity for one academic year. The students make a lot of personal sacrifices to be their best self while learning. Once it is over, they often comment that it went by quickly.
The great benefit that students may not appreciate until they experience it, is the cohort of learners of which they become a part. They form a learning community with their cohort which becomes a very enriching experience for them. They do not learn alone - each student is a great part of a whole. They learn far more than dentistry in this experience. Since dentistry is a profession of serving others and working as a team, it is fitting that they get to share that with others as they prepare for this occupation.
Q: What are your goals for the future of the program?
A: We are fortunate to have a state-of-the-art learning facility with a beautiful simulation clinic with up to date equipment and current dental technologies. We are always looking for ways to keep our program the best! There are some technological advances being made in the industry that we would love to incorporate into our students’ learning, such as digital impressions. A few continued endeavors include ensuring meaningful externships for the students, promoting our graduates in the community, and maintaining high standards for continued accreditation. Since we graduate a cohort each semester, we are always looking forward to the next group of students to join us!