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Need For Skilled Dental Assistants the Impetus for QCC’s Investment in New Dental Lab

November, 2019
  • Dr. Brandon Cairo works on a patient in QCC's new dental lab with dental assisting student Taylor Handson.
    Dr. Brandon Cairo works on a patient in QCC's new dental lab with dental assisting student Taylor Handson.
  • QCC Dental Assistant Jocelyn Nguyen trains on new equipment in the new dental lab.
    QCC Dental Assistant Jocelyn Nguyen trains on new equipment in the new dental lab.
  • QCC Dental Assistant Stacey Graneyu learns to work on new equipment in QCC's dental lab.
    QCC Dental Assistant Stacey Graneyu learns to work on new equipment in QCC's dental lab.

Today a visit to the dentist is a far cry from one your grandparents made years ago. There is an evolution in the dental world as more and more innovative technological advances happen in the field of dentistry. Quinsigamond Community College’s dental education programs have stayed abreast of these advances. This year the College opened a new dental lab that offers QCC dental assistant and hygienist students the opportunity to work on state-of-the-art dental equipment used in dental materials labs across the region.This is welcome news to dentists in the region who have expressed a shortage of dental assistants in the Commonwealth; particularly those with advanced skill sets.

“This lab is part of QCC’s efforts to address Greater Worcester’s need for dental health care by creating a workforce of skilled clinicians in the field of dental hygiene and dental assisting,” said Chairman of the Worcester District Dental Society, George E. Maloney, D.M.D.

Central Massachusetts dentist, Dr. Brandon Cairo, is working with QCC instructors to help teach the College’s dental assisting students the ins and outs of what it means to be a quality dental assistant. He said the new lab is a great way for students to gain exposure to the latest in dental technology. According to Dr. Cairo, this type of hands-on education makes QCC’s dental assistants more valuable when they enter the marketplace by having more skill sets than their contemporaries. QCC’s new lab equipment such as CAD/CAM technology; digital cameras, a milling machine that can make crowns; a high-tech scanner; staining unit and oven, and other cutting-edge dental equipment gives students the ability to become proficient on equipment they might one day be working with in a dental office. In Dr. Cairo’s personal practice, his dental assistants have expanded functions and feels dental assistants with advanced skills are worth a lot more.

“The less I have to teach (dental assistants) the more valuable they are to me. Sometimes assistants bring skill sets to the office that a dentist doesn’t have,” Dr. Cairo said. “They command a pay that’s better than average and increases your worth as an employee.”

According to the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the number of Massachusetts dental assistant jobs is projected to grow by 12.5% over a 10-year period ending in 2022. The pay scale for dental assistants is also on the rise. The website, DentalCareersEDU.org noted that on average a dental assistant in Central Massachusetts makes $45,074, while an experienced assistant, on average, makes $50,561.

“In New England there is a definite need for dental assistants. Most weeks I get at least two calls or emails from dentists looking for dental assistants,” said Jennifer McKeon, coordinator of QCC’s Dental Assisting program.

In addition to working in the lab, QCC’s dental assistants do externships working in both general dental offices as well as specialty offices such as orthodontics or periodontics. The students also do community-based service projects such as the KidSeal Program, which provides free dental care, including dental screenings, prophylaxis, radiographs, oral health education and fluoride varnish, to elementary school-aged children at schools in the greater Worcester area.

“You learn more here,” said current dental assisting student Taylor Handson.

QCC’s Dental Assisting program is a one year program, accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), which is nationally recognized by the United States Department of Education as the sole agency to accredit dental and dental-related education programs conducted at the post-secondary level. It is the only accredited program in Worcester County. Upon graduation, QCC dental assisting students will be prepared to take the Dental Assisting National Board examination in order to achieve the Certified Dental Assistant designation.

“Accreditation also commands a higher salary,” Ms. McKeon said.

“This program here at QCC is a good one, that’s why I teach it,” Dr. Cairo added.  

To learn more visit QCC’s Dental Programs.

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