Getting their start through dental assisting

Group of happy dental assistants and dentists

For aspiring dentists, fulfilling their dream begins with gaining entrance into dental school. However, this can be challenging to achieve, with the enrollment statistics not always in applicants’ favor. But a unique post-baccalaureate program offered through Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry gives dental school hopefuls the opportunity to advance their education and become more competitive for admission to dental school.

The program includes a combination of dental assisting training and advanced translational science courses. Students take dental assisting lectures and labs, plus online courses offered through the DALE Foundation, the official DANB affiliate. After completing the coursework, students take DANB’s Radiation Health and Safety (RHS); Infection Control (ICE); and Anatomy, Morphology and Physiology (AMP) exams and, after passing the exams, are allowed to assist third- and four-year dental students in the clinic.

The students enrolled in this year’s class have all completed their dental assisting training and passed the DANB exams.

Hands-on experience gives students a head start

Students from previous years have said the post-baccalaureate program thoroughly prepared them for dental school. In particular, knowing dental terminology and how things work in the clinic provided confidence to help them excel in their first year of dental school.

One of the unique elements of the Kornberg School of Dentistry’s post-baccalaureate program is the hands-on experience that students gain by assisting in the clinic. Students said the real-world learning opportunity gave them a head start when they entered dental school. Additionally, the opportunity to assist student-dentists provided a deeper understanding of how to work with a dental assistant so a procedure can go as smoothly and quickly as possible.

“Those post-baccalaureate students admitted to dental school after completing the program definitely feel they have an advantage once they enter the preclinical and clinical settings in dental school,” says JoAnn Nyquist, BSDH, M.A., Ed.S., Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Diversity and Director of the Post-Baccalaureate Program with Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry.

Nyquist elaborates: “While students who enter dental school typically have maybe 80 hours of shadowing, and some have been dental assistants, by the time our students finish the post-baccalaureate program, they’ve got almost 300 hours accrued in all dental specialties and restorative dentistry.”

Shyam Ladani completed the post-baccalaureate program in the May 2021 class and is currently enrolled at Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry, with an expected graduation year of 2025.

Ladani says being able to earn NELDA certification was an amazing feature of the program, along with its comprehensive nature: “We had preclinic opportunities, clinical opportunities, we assisted students, and using DALE Foundation courses helped.”

He adds: “I really liked how the DALE Foundation courses were accessible online, so I could watch the videos, do the modules, and gain knowledge that way, as a supplement to what we were being taught in the classroom. The content of our teachers’ classroom presentations was very similar to the DALE Foundation modules, which reinforced the material.”

Overall, Ladani credits DANB, the DALE Foundation and the Temple post-baccalaureate program for helping him in his journey to becoming a dentist.

“In addition to allowing me to strengthen my dental school application, the program also allowed me to learn more about the dental field, like terminology and even simple things like mixing ingredients to make impressions,” he shares. “It’s learning about little things like that during the post-baccalaureate program that has been largely beneficial. Now, as a dental student, I feel more confident in my work and can spend class time more efficiently.”

Increased focus on infection control

The post-baccalaureate program also incorporates the Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate Program, co-developed by the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) and the DALE Foundation. The certificate program includes two educational components and an assessment. Additionally, students complete a module on COVID-19 Respiratory Droplet and Aerosol Protection.

Nyquist says it’s important for students to complete the certificate program, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Students utilize the most updated and current information to prepare them for their acceptance into dental school and their future,” she says. “They appreciate the emphasis in today’s healthcare settings to acquire the necessary training and knowledge.”

Learn more about the program

The current Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry’s Post-Baccalaureate Program began at the end of May 2021 and continues through April 2022. After successfully completing the program, students may be conditionally accepted to Temple University’s Doctor of Dental Medicine program. Students are encouraged to apply to other dental programs as well.

To learn more, visit the program webpage.