TCTC Dental Assisting Students Get Hands-on Experience

CHAMPION, Ohio — Alexus Mendez, a dental assisting student at Trumbull Career and Technical Center, says she wants to become a dentist and have her own practice. 

She’s learned about the anatomy of the face and mouth in her classes and hopes to go to college and later a dental school.

On Friday, the junior from Badger High School and 29 of her dental assisting classmates gathered at nearby Modern Dental Concepts to take part in dental health day for veterans. They helped dentists and hygienists give free dental cleanings, extractions and fillings.

“I’m a little nervous because I haven’t done this yet, but I’m definitely excited,” Mendez said.

Haley Johnson was fitted for braces two years ago, which spurred her interest in the the field.

“I have been really interested in anatomy in general, so anything medical related,” said the senior from Bristol High School. “I think helping people is just a really good thing to do, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, projected employment growth is 7.6%, equating to 10,400 new dentist jobs through 2028.

The American Dental Association says the need for new dentists is rising due to upcoming retirements and changes in health care law. In 2018, the average net income for independent private general practitioners was $190,440 and $330,180 for specialists.

Jill Woods, program director for TCTC’s dental assisting program, says three juniors and seniors go to Youngstown State University’s dental hygiene program in the fall and spring to assist the hygienists and even help them with their Ohio State Dental Board exams.

“I wanted to be able to be ready when they actually go out and get their career,” she says. “I want them to be able to see what it’s like to be with the patient one on one, be able to pass instruments to the dentist and to know what the dentist needs.” 

Woods says these TCTC students are involved in work-based learning where they accumulate 250 hours of unpaid internship through their junior and senior years to satisfy the requirements of the Ohio Department of Education.

There are three dental health days this academic year at which any TCTC student can receive a free cleaning, X-rays and automated toothbrush on the school’s campus.

Johnson has done her X-ray certification and taken a medical terminology web exam, worth three college credits. She has to complete much more training before leaving TCTC, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

In January, students like Johnson can start attending internships in the afternoon after their academic courses are finished in the morning.

“Most of the time, someone would need to go to school for two, three years out of high school before they’d even get an experience like that,” Woods said.

The students will be taught anatomy, tooth numbers, surfaces, preparing an exam room, doing impressions, fabricating bleaching trays, and taking X-rays.

“It’s a great opportunity for the students that are ready to go out and be in the workforce,” Woods says.

Modern Dental Concepts is the practice of Dr. Sergio Nadler and Dr. Sheffali Sheth-Nadler. Dr. Sergio Nadler says they have partnered with TCTC in the past.

He says the Nov. 19 experience is a “win-win” for both parties, giving hands-on experience to theshigh school students – from office work and  dealing with patients, to hygiene and the many facets of actual dentistry.

“They can get a good grasp of what an office should do and can do for a patient,” Nadler says. “They can get really good hands on, not just classroom, books and mannequins.”

Nadler hired a TCTC student last year, saying they come well-trained. 

Pictured: Jill Woods, TCTC dental assisting program director, students Alexus Mendez and Haley Johnson, and Dr. Sergio Nadler, part owner of Modern Dental Concepts, were on hand to provide free dental cleanings, extractions and fillings for veterans.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.