Dental Assisting Students Get Industry Tips on Professionalism

A recent guest speaker emphasized this essential aspect of the profession from the employers’ perspective

On Monday, February 26, all ten Dental Assisting students at the American College for Medical Careers in Orlando had the benefit of a presentation from a professional in the field. Jean Carlos is the Office Manager at Advanced Esthetic Dentistry in Orlando. He spent nearly an hour and a half with the students at ACMC, making a PowerPoint presentation as well as answering questions. The biggest theme he emphasized was how essential it is that students present themselves in a professional manner, and what is required to make a good impression right from the start.

According to Katherine DeJesus, one of the instructors in ACMC’s Dental Assistant program, students were especially interested in what Mr. Carlos had to say because he supervises the ACMC students who do externships at his practice. “We have known Jean for several years, since he worked at another practice that took ACMC students as externs,” she says. “It’s one thing for the students to hear from me how important it is for them to act professionally, but there is nothing better than them hearing it from someone who manages a dental office where they could be interviewing.”

The externship requirement at ACMC is for 330 hours on site at a dental practice, after the student has completed all coursework. This takes place over 11 weeks. “Since Jean is in charge of managing the externs at his office, he knows exactly what he is looking for,” says DeJesus.

What it means to be “professional”

According to DeJesus, Carlos talked about the many ways that students can convey their professionalism to an employer, such as:

  • Resumes. Mr. Carlos pointed out to students that a well-organized resume is an excellent chance to make a first impression. “He helped the students understand that it’s a chance to sell themselves on paper before they even come into the office for an interview,” DeJesus says. He said the resume needs to be legible and accurate. “He let them know that you can be a great candidate, but if your resume is a mess, that says a lot about you.”
  • Appearance. He also emphasized to students that what they wear to an interview is very important. He talked about being clean and presentable and gave them suggestions on what to avoid.
  • Presenting yourself verbally. Mr. Carlos advised students that, though they should be able to summarize their skills and their interest in the position, they should also be careful not to talk too much during an interview.
  • Doing your research. He talked about spending time before an interview learning about the specific dental practice, to make it clear to the interviewer that the student has done some preparation. The company website is a good place to start.
  • Asking questions. He encouraged students to consider that an interview is not one-sided, but an opportunity for them to learn more about the employer. The best way to do this is to prepare some questions in advance about the position or the practice.
  • Being on time. Carlos pointed out that this is one of the most essential aspects of sending the message to your potential employer that you are a serious candidate who will be responsible and reliable. Showing up late to an interview, he made clear, is a bad sign in terms of what the employer can expect.

After he completed his presentation, Carlos took the time to answer questions from the students. “He helped the students to see that, from the employer’s perspective, they can train someone in some of the other skills, but they will not hire someone who does not present themselves professionally in these ways,” DeJesus says.

How expanded functions prepare ACMC students

One aspect of the work for which ACMC trains its students is a series of expanded functions, which sets the program apart. DeJesus says that managers like Carlos who oversee externs make sure students get the experience they need in these hands-on skills, and this makes them desirable candidates. “Dentists like to hire Dental Assistants who are trained in these expanded functions,” she says, “because it means the assistant is able to take additional duties, and the dentist can leave them to handle more responsibilities with a patient.”

Among some of the expanded functions that ACMC students learn are:

  • Placing and removing rubber dams (also called dental dams). The students learn how to position these rubber squares with a clamp in the patient’s mouth. “They help moisture control,” says DeJesus, “so the assistant can isolate the teeth where the dentist will be working, and nothing goes in or out of that area.”
  • Taking alginate impressions. These are used to make an exact replica of the patient’s teeth. “They are useful for making diagnostic casts and molds for temporary crowns,” DeJesus says, “as well as for case presentations—when the dentist will be performing a lot of work and wants to be able to show the patient on a model what exactly will be reconstructed.”
  • Placement of sealants. “These protect the teeth from decay,” she says. “If the patient has areas in the teeth where there are grooves from biting down (called occlusion), the toothbrush cannot reach these areas, and the sealant protects those fissures so there is no build-up.”

According to DeJesus, these are just a few of the long list of expanded functions that students learn during their time in the program. She adds that there is also plenty of time for practice. “The students practice their techniques on each other,” she says, “but we also bring in students from other ACMC programs as well, so our students gain additional experience.”

Mr. Carlos’s visit is just one of the many ways that ACMC helps to prepare its students for jobs in the field of dentistry. Read about a recent opportunity they had to do mock interviews. Students who will soon be heading out on externships are in a good position to put their best foot forward. Stay tuned for more stories from our campus!