Dental Programs FAQs
Consult our Dental Programs FAQs for answers about admission, acceptance and schedules.
What is a dental assistant?
Dental assistants greatly increase the efficiency of the dentist in the delivery of quality oral health care and are valuable members of the dental care team. They play a significant role in the precision of a dental practice. Dentists rely on dental assistants to perform a wide range of patient procedures, and their responsibilities continue to expand as they need for their services grows. Therefore, if you have strong communication skills, enjoy working with your hands as well as your mind and want a career with responsibility, dental assisting is for you.
Careers in Dental Assisting
- Variety: dental assisting is a challenging and rewarding career, demanding versatility and a willingness to assume responsibility for many different tasks.
- Flexibility: Since dental assistants are in high demand, career options include both full-time and part-time positions.
- Excellent working conditions: Dental offices are interesting, pleasant, people-oriented environments in which to work.
- Personal satisfaction: Dental assisting involves people contact, and with the personal interaction comes the personal satisfaction of knowing you’ve really helped someone by helping to provide a valuable health service.
Since many dentist employ two or more dental assistants, employment opportunities in this field are excellent. The types of working environments available to dental assistants include: solo and group dental practices, specialty practices, public health, hospital dental clinics, dental school clinics. Moreover, other career opportunities include: insurance companies, teaching positions, laboratories, and dental product sales representatives.
What is a dental hygienist?
A registered dental hygienist is a licensed dental professional that specializes in preventative oral health care, therapeutic treatment, and patient education. The dental hygienist works independently within the dental practice to provide direct patient care which requires them to possess a breadth of knowledge and skills in a variety of areas.
The duties of the dental hygienist include comprehensive patient care with specifics to include:
- Oral Prophylaxis (cleaning)
- Exposing, Processing and Mounting Radiographs
- Collecting and Evaluating Medical History Information
- Performing Head and Neck Examinations
- Periodontal Assessment and Therapy
- Administering Local Anesthesia
- Administering Nitrous Oxide-Oxygen conscious sedation
- Performing Nonsurgical Periodontal Treatment
- Applying Agents for the Prevention of Decay
- Applying Desensitizing and Antimicrobial Agents
- Patient Education in Relation to Systemic Health
Careers in Dental Hygiene
Dental hygiene has a variety of career opportunities students may pursue. The career offers a flexible format and excellent working conditions in both full-time and part-time positions. There is high personal satisfaction in being able to contribute to bettering someone’s personal health. It is a challenging and rewarding career path.
Dental hygiene employment opportunities include:
- General Practice and Specialty Dental Offices
- Federal, State, County and City Health Clinics
- Public health clinics
- Hospital dental facilities
- Long-term Care Facilities
- Industrial Clinics
- The Armed Services
- Research Institutions
- Educational Settings
- Dental Sales Companies
What is an advantage of graduating from an OTC Dental Program?
The OTC Dental Programs are accredited by the Commission of Dental Accreditation (CODA). The Commission is a specialized accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education and serves the public and profession by developing and implementing accreditation standards that promote and monitor the continuous quality and improvement of dental education programs. The OTC Dental Assisting Program is the only accredited dental assisting program in Southwest Missouri. The program has been approved by the Missouri Dental Board to provide expanded functions curriculum. Therefore, upon completion each student is qualified to sit for the Dental Assisting National Board exam and acquire certification (CDA) and will graduate with the Missouri Expanded Functions Permits. The education attained during the OTC Dental Hygiene Program allows for the student to complete the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE), regional clinical board examination, and Missouri state board examination. Once completed the student can obtain Missouri dental hygiene licensure with Local Anesthetic Infiltration/Block and Administration of Nitrous Oxide permits.
What does selective admission programs mean?
Each candidate that applies to the program is placed in an applicant pool based on points.
How many candidates are selected to enter the dental programs?
Typically the dental assisting and dental hygiene programs accept 20 students per cohort.
Dental Assisting has two starts per year. A cohort starts in the spring and one in the fall.
The Dental Hygiene starts one cohort per year in the fall for the 2 year program.
The number of students accepted may be less due to extenuating circumstances with placing students in clinical sites.
What is the application process? Where do I begin?
First step is to complete the OTC admissions process. You should review your transcripts and submit any official transcripts from other institutions. You need to review the Candidate Selection form and note anything that needs to be completed prior to applying. Complete the 24 hours of clinical observation and submit to the OTC Allied Health office. You will need to complete the preadmission testing through the OTC testing center. Finally, you need to make application to the dental program by the official application deadline. Completion of all of these items will improve your chance of selective admission.
Is there an interview involved in the application process?
There is not an interview associated with the application process . The Candidate Selection form is used to document the points for the selection process. Points come from grades made in the courses completed, testing results and cumulative GPA (for the Dental Hygiene program).
If I’m not accepted into the Dental Assisting or Dental Hygiene program, can I apply again?
A student may reapply. Directions will be outlined in the regret letter. Applications are shred if not reactivated within 12 months of applying.
Do I have to be a dental assistant or have dental work experience to apply to the dental hygiene program?
No, you do not need to have dental assisting experience or be a dental assistant prior to applying for the dental hygiene program. However, you will be expected to complete core courses shared by both programs. There have been many dental hygiene graduates who have successfully completed the program without previous dental work experience.
How many people usually apply for each program?
There is a wide range of qualified applicants and each applicant pool varies annually. Each program accepts the top 20 students. It is strictly based on the total score earned on the candidate selection form. Refer to the candidate selection form to increase your chances of attaining maximum points.
If I am applying for both the dental assisting and dental hygiene programs, will the scores earned from the Bennett & Wonderlic preadmission testing apply to both of my candidate selection forms?
The preadmission test scores will be applied to both candidate selection forms.
How many times may I complete the preadmission testing?
You are allowed to take the preadmission tests twice in an application cycle; June 16 – June 15 or November 1 – October 31 for dental assisting and June 1 – May 31 for dental hygiene.
Can I complete my clinical observation hours at multiple dental practices?
It is preferable to visit multiple offices to view different job expectations. It is encouraged to spend time with the different team members and learn about their job responsibilities. If you are applying to both dental assisting and dental hygiene programs, you can use the 24 hours of observation for both program applications. For example: If you first try to get into the dental hygiene program and are denied, just call the Allied Health Office and let them know you would like to be considered for the dental assisting program. We will accept the 24 hours already completed.
Does OTC have a list of dental offices allowing for clinical observation or do I need to find an office(s) on my own?
No, OTC does not show preferential selection to any specific dental offices. We have an outstanding relationship with the dental community. You will need to find an office, but many dental offices will work with our Dental Programs. Let them know you that you are applying at OTC and you want to learn more about dental by observing in their office.
If I want to apply for both the dental assisting and dental hygiene program, can I do it on the same application?
Yes, you can use a single application process to apply to both programs and pay one fee.
How many times can I apply to the programs?
We keep your application for 2 years, as long as you let the OTC Allied Health Office know you are still interested in applying for a dental program. If the OTC Allied Health Office does not hear from you following 1 year, then your file will be deactivated.
What vaccines do I need?
You can view the immunization requirements for the OTC Dental Programs in the Vaccination Requirements Document.
Immunizations will not be requested until the student has been accepted into the program.
Do I need a Criminal Background Check?
In the course of changes in healthcare, it has become necessary to have criminal
background checks performed on all currently enrolled students in Allied Health
programs. This is necessary because of our affiliations with numerous clinical education
All applicants accepted into an Allied Health program will have a criminal background
check performed. This will be done through a contracted agency. At the present time, if
the program you are planning to enter requires licensure or certification by a national or
state organization, it will be the decision of that agency as to your qualifications to apply
for licensure or certification. Your acceptance into an OTC Allied Health program or the
completion of the program does not guarantee the eligibility to apply for licensure or
Students with a felony or a significant criminal history may not be able to participate in
clinical experiences at some of our sites and may not be able to apply for a license to
Do I have to take the program courses in order or can I take courses in any order?
Once accepted into a program, the courses must be taken in a sequential order.
How do I know if my courses from another institution will transfer to OTC?
OTC provides a transfer equivalency guide on the OTC website found HERE.
What is the typical daily schedule while in the program?
- The Dental Assisting program accepts 2 cohorts each year; one in the spring semester and one in the fall semester. Both will be delivered in a hybrid format. Students will meet on campus one day per week.
- The Dental Hygiene program accepts 1 cohort each year. It is delivered in a hybrid format. Students meet on campus one to two days per week depending on the semester.
How long does it take to complete the Program at OTC?
Students complete the Dental Assisting Program in 9 months. The August (fall start) graduates in May and the January (spring) start graduates in October.
Students complete the Dental Hygiene Program in two years. The track starts in August and students graduate in May following the completion of five semesters
Once I have completed the dental assisting or dental hygiene program do I receive permits/licensure to work in Missouri?
Upon graduation from the dental assisting program you have an opportunity to sit for the Dental Assisting National Board exam (DANB). This is a nationally recognized exam for credentialing of dental assistants as Certified Dental Assistants (CDA). Once you have successfully completed both the program and DANB exam you can make application to receive your Missouri Expanded Function permits in Orthodontics, Removable Prosthetics, Fixed Prosthetics, Restorative I, and monitoring nitrous oxide certification.
Upon graduation from the dental hygiene program you will have the opportunity to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE), a regional clinical board examination, and a Missouri State Rules and Regulations exam. Once you have successfully completed the program and required examinations you can make application to receive your Missouri Registered Dental Hygiene (RDH) license and permits in local anesthesia and nitrous oxide administration.
Does the A.A.S. degree transfer?
Both the A.A.S degree in dental assisting and dental hygiene will transfer to most four year institutions.
Is there a Dental Programs Student Handbook?
Yes, there is an electronic student handbook on our website where you can learn more about the policies and procedures of the programs.
Are reference letters required on application?
No, we do not require reference letters for application to either program. You may submit them if you wish, but additional points are not awarded. There is an application checklist that spells out exactly what you need to have a complete application.
How much time should be devoted to the Dental Assisting program?
In general, the recommendation is that students should anticipate studying 2-3 hours per credit hour. This does not include the time spent in labs or clinical. During each semester, you will have outside clinical experiences. Plan to be in clinic 1 – 2 days per week each semester. The Dental Hygiene program does not have outside clinical experiences.
How does the hybrid track work for Dental Assisting?
- In the hybrid delivery, the majority of lecture courses are delivered online. However, in total credit hours, the majority of hours are actually lab and clinical hours which are face to face, on campus and off campus. Students are divided into different lab sections, which will meet one day per week.
- Students who start in the spring semester will have lab scheduled on Mondays. Students who start in the fall semester will have lab scheduled on Wednesdays. All clinicals are scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- It is possible for students to live outside of the Springfield area and still take advantage of the dental assisting hybrid delivery. For those students, it is helpful to have room and board available in Springfield for times there is bad weather or when courses require more on-campus practice time.
- The hybrid program allows for more flexibility in a student’s schedule, including more time for family and work responsibilities while going to school full-time. However, faculty recommend a minimum of 30 hours of devoted study time for a 15 credit hour semester.
- The hybrid delivery is a combination of online activities (videos, quizzes, exams, presentation, etc.) and in person activities (labs, clinicals, guest speakers, etc.).
- Content is introduced online each week with power point presentations, videos, and/or lecture notes. The online content is supported with assigned reading in the textbook, homework, and online class discussion. Unit exams, midterms, and final exams are given online with an online proctoring service, or at an OTC testing centers, or an approved local site.
- Clinical experiences are held in various general dental practices, specialty practices, community practices within the community you reside.
- Faculty are available to students through online sources such as video conferencing, email, phone, or by appointment in their office.