March 28, 2006

Case dental school launches assistant training program

Now can offer qualifying applicants federal and merit financial aid packages


Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine will expand its dental auxiliary programs to begin offering dental assistant training to its first class on August 7 in the only initially accredited program by the American Dental Association in the Greater Cleveland area and taught at a dental school in Ohio.

Case had planned to start the program in 2005 and had an overwhelming response from interested applicants, but realized there was also an overwhelming need for financial aid.

By delaying the start of the program for one year, the dental school is now able to offer qualifying applicants federally-funded Pell grants and merit-based financial aid. The application deadline is Friday, May 12. Tuition is $7,100.

Approximately 20 students will be in the first dental assistant class. They will receive over 900 hours of instruction, of which 300 will be in non-paid, rotating field or on-campus clinical externships. At the completion of the program, students will take the National Dental Assisting Board.

The new one-year, full-time program responds to a critical shortage of dental assistants—often described as the “right hand of the dentist,” according to Ronald Occhionero, D.D. S., associate dean of administration at the Case dental school.

“Employment opportunities for dental assistants are excellent,” said Occhionero. When the Case School of Dental Medicine goes to fill its dental assistant vacancies in the school’s dental clinics, it can take months to find an available assistant for the job, he said.

A vital member of the dental office team, dental assistants provide a variety of services—assisting with treatment procedures; taking medical histories, blood pressures and pulse; teaching patients about proper oral hygiene; taking impressions of patient’s teeth for models of the teeth; providing follow-up instruction after surgery; serving as the infectious disease control officer of the practice; and helping patients feel comfortable during their office visit. Dental assistants work in a variety of settings from the private practice to group, hospital, public health, specialty practice or even dental school clinics.

The yearlong, full-time program at Case offers unique opportunities for post-high school students and adults not found in other programs in Ohio, according to Occhionero.

The dental assistant instructional training will take place in state-of-the-art classrooms, equipped with patient simulator technology—similar learning equipment used by students enrolled and being trained as future dentists and as dental auxiliaries. The dental assistants will gain professional experience through the Case dental clinics, which host thousands of patient visits each year, and learn to work with student, faculty and community dentists in settings that will prepare the assistant as a member of the professional office team. Students also will have externship opportunities with professional dentists in the community.

The courses provide dental assistant candidates with the educational experiences that will lead to national certification as dental assistants.

Occhionero noted that one unique advantage to Case’s program is that it takes place in a major dental school. Case dental assistant students can meet and work with dental students, setting out to establish new practices and offices, or dentists with established practices.

Students also will have the opportunity to learn, observe and work with Case dental faculty members, who are teaching and practicing some of the most advanced dental techniques in general dentistry and the dental specialties.

In addition to the dental assistant training, the Case dental school provides a popular training program for assistants who would like to advance their careers and become Expanded Functional Dental Auxiliaries (EFDA). EFDAs perform preventative or restorative procedures under the direct supervision of a dentist. Students who excel in the dental assistant program now will have an opportunity to advance to the EFDA program.

Those interested in applying must have a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED). They need to fill out an application, with an application fee of $25, and submit it to the dental school by May 12 for the program that begins August 7.

After applying, all applicants will be required to take math, English and hand-eye coordination skills tests. Those tests can be taken on May 22 or May 24. Applicants accepted into the program will be notified by July 14. The financial aid office will also contact all candidates accepted into the program about their financial aid needs.

Upon acceptance into the program, applicants must submit a $100 reservation fee, which also applies toward tuition.

For additional information and application, contact Janet Draganic, coordinator of administration, Case School of Dental Medicine at 216-368-1900 or e-mail questions to

For more information: Susan Griffith 216-368-1004.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, March 28, 2006 10:42 AM | News Topics: School of Dental Medicine

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