MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Employment for dental assistants is projected to grow 25 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, much faster than the average for all occupations, making it a great career prospect.
The American Red Cross, in coordination with 11th Dental Company Detachment, based out of the Robert M. Casey Medical and Dental Clinic aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, offers Status of Forces Agreement civilians the opportunity to participate in the Dental Assisting Training Program.
“The program is six monthslong and approximately four people are accepted each time,” said Lt. Phillip Jenkins, dental officer with 11th Dental Company Detachment. “To complete the program, a student must have a minimum of 500 hours done by the end of the six months.”
Ashley Bell, a volunteer dental assistant with the American Red Cross, is nearing the end of the program and is looking to pursue a career in dental assisting.
“I had looked into dental assisting when I was back in the states and when I saw they had a program here, I got excited,” said Bell. “It’s a win-win. It’s free schooling for us, but we pay them back by working for them, I think it’s a pretty good trade.”
The process to be accepted into the program is similar to that of a normal job, said Jenkins. After applicants sign up at the Red Cross and put in a resume, they are interviewed by three representatives, including Jenkins, who determine whom will be accepted.
“Those who want to make it a career are the ones chosen for the program,” explained Jenkins. “Some people just get bored and want to find something to fill their time, which wastes good training for, what has the potential to be, a great career.”
Bell said she loves working as a dental assistant and couldn’t be happier with the experience.
“I’m really gung ho about the program,” said Bell. “I really want to pursue this as my career, so I am giving 100 percent when I come to work, even though I’m not getting paid.”
Although this program does not provide volunteers all the hours required to be a certified dental assistant, it is a great starting point for people who want to continue their training back in the states, said Jenkins.
“To go back to the states and be a certified dental assistant, you have to get 3,500 hours either working under a dentist or go to school and the hours you acquire through this program go toward that,” said Bell.
During the six months, volunteers have to learn a great deal about general dentistry, laboratory work and orthodontia, said Jenkins, but he also believes the most important skill required of a dental assistant is good people skills.
“When people come to the dentist, they are scared,” said Jenkins. “No one likes a giant needle coming at them, so the assistant needs to be capable of calming them down and easing them into the process. That makes a big difference.”
For more information on the Dental Assisting Training Program, contact the American Red Cross aboard station at 253-4525.