Dentists offer training program for assistants

12/01/2011 5:00 AM

12/01/2011 7:16 AM

When dentists Ty and Terra Reusser couldn’t find dental assistants to help in their joint practice, they decided to start a training program themselves.

The experience of their students bears out the demand for assistants in Wichita, they said. Of 15 graduates in one class, all now have jobs with dentists. Twenty-three more students completed the most recent session, which ended last month.

"There’s just a really big need for assistants out there," Terra Reusser said.

The Reussers’ program is a 10-week, 80-hour course that costs $2,999. Classes meet on Saturday.

"It lets people, without spending a fortune or quitting their job, find out if they like this career," Reusser said.

Each class is divided between classroom and clinic work. Students also get the opportunity to shadow assistants who work for the Reussers and other dentists.

"We open our practice up to them during those 10 weeks," Reusser said.

Students are also given training in preparing resumes and interviewing for jobs.

The program is one of at least two for dental assistants in Wichita. Wichita Area Technical College also offers a program.

Terra Reusser said one study showed that working as a dental assistant is one of the 30 fastest-growing careers in the United States, thanks in part to the growing demand for cosmetic dentistry. Assistants can make $10 to $20 an hour, she said.

"It’s a professional career that people can be proud of," she said.

Unlike dental hygienists, assistants in Kansas aren’t required to have a license, Reusser said. Some are trained by the dentists they work for, but that can take away time from a dentist’s practice.

Dental assistants help during procedures, handing the dentist instruments and handling the suction device. They also set up the operating room, take X-rays and do laboratory work, such as making temporary crowns and bridges, Reusser said.

The Reussers, who earned their dental degrees from the University of Nebraska, had a practice in Wellington for 12 years before moving to Wichita three years ago. Both teach in the program, as do their longtime dental assistant and a dental hygienist.

Terra Reusser said the classes have doubled in size since they started two years ago. Some students have used them to prepare for dental school or hygienist training.

"We want to keep it small," Reusser said. "It’s kind of intense."

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