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After spending nearly a decade as a stay at home mom, Kelly Grosse decided to jump back into the work force. Only, she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. After researching various jobs, she found an affordable dental assisting program through San Diego Mesa College. The program lasted 9 months and was 35 credit units.

“It cost about $2,000. It was much less than the TV-advertised colleges. For instance, Concord’s Registered Dental Assisting Program is $15,000,” says Grosse.

Grosse thought the San Diego Mesa College program was a great deal considering the hourly mean wage for a registered dental assistant in California is $18.14, or $37,730 annually.

“There is financial assistance available regardless of what school you choose to attend. However, I feel I received a much better education through Mesa. The specific program I attended was worth it. My schooling prepared me above and beyond to take the California Registered Dental Assistant exam and the Certified Dental Assistant Exam. I felt confident in my knowledge after meeting other students in similar colleges who were less prepared and deep in debt. ” says Grosse.

In California, in order to receive a Registered Dental Assistant license, one must successfully pass a hands-on practical examination, a state computerized written examination, a law and ethics written test, complete board-approved courses in coronal polishing and radiation safety, complete and show proof of a board-approved course in Dental Practice Act, an eight hour board-approved course in infection control, have a CPR card, and lastly, submit fingerprint clearances from both the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigations.

To complete her dental assisting program through San Diego Mesa College, Grosse interned on a local military base.

“I received great hands on experience. During my spring semester, I completed my hours in a general oral surgery and pediatric office. These experiences gave me a great introduction to the dental world.”

Grosse’s Schooling didn’t end there.

Says Grosse, “In order to keep your license current, you are required to take 25 hours of continuing education courses every 2 years. This can be done online, at local conferences, or conferences held in various locations each year.”

After becoming licensed, Grosse had no trouble securing a full time job.

“The two offices that I interned at, hired me after graduation. The challenge, as with any job, was finding where I was happy. I have since left those offices for one that I am beyond happy with.”

Grosse now works in a pediatric office in Solana Beach.

“The joking motto in our office is that we’re like Burger King ‘have it your way,’ meaning we strive to make your dental experience as best as possible. So many people have a phobia of the dentist, so I not only need to comfort the child patient but the concerned parent who can sometimes be the bigger challenge. Working with children is always fun and interesting; much easier than adults.”

A dental assistant’s job duties include patient care, taking x-rays, recordkeeping, and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary depending on the dentists’ offices where they work.

Grosse has the following advice for others seeking a career in her field,

“It’s important to understand what positions are available and the difference between a dental assistant, registered dental assistant, and a hygienist. Each position has different requirements, schooling, and pay. If you want to know more ask your dentist if you can shadow them to have a better understanding of working in a dental office. California has very high standards compared to other states. Make sure your school is accredited by the Dental Board of California. If you plan to move out of state, make sure your license will transfer.”

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