July 24, 2000
BIRMINGHAM, AL — Beginning fall quarter 2000, the School of Dentistry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) will offer a new one-year program for dental assistants.
The program, recently approved by the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, is designed to provide the necessary educational background and training for high-school graduates who wish to become dental assistants.
The program is being initiated in response to an acute shortage of dental assistants in Alabama and across the nation, says Wilson Wright, D.M.D., a professor in restorative dentistry and director of the new program. "Existing programs are not producing enough dental assistants to meet the needs in the state. There also is a need within the School of Dentistry for additional assistants to participate in clinical activities and to provide the D.M.D. students with experience in working with assistants."
In a dental care setting, a dental assistant's major responsibilities include assisting chairside with the dentist during patient treatment, sterilizing instruments and equipment, preparing dental radiographs, taking impressions of patients' teeth and performing certain laboratory procedures.
The program's curriculum includes general studies, biomedical sciences, dental sciences, dental assisting and clinical practice. Through clinical experience, the student practices the principles of four-handed dentistry, a practice founded at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and now standard in dental offices across the country.
On average, a single dentist will employ two dental assistants, and with a pool of approximately 1,900 practicing dentists in the state, a large demand exists, Wright said. Current programs in the state only train approximately 120 dental assistants a year.
Students interested in learning more about the Dental Assistants Program may call the School of Dentistry admissions office at (205) 934-5357.