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Encina’s dental program prepares students for a career in the dental field

Photo of a student holding a study model Encina Preparatory High School is home to a Dental Careers program, a Regional Occupational Program (ROP) in which students take part in both classroom instruction and time at a dental office. The goal is for students to learn the skills they need to pursue a career in the dental field. The program is open to high school students ages 16 or older and adults in the local community. High school students may register after they have talked to a counselor, while adults may register for a fee through April 1.

Students may become registered dental assistants after they take state board exams, usually five months out of the program, allowing them to earn anywhere between $17 and $27 an hour.

The program is broken up into two portions for students, each making up one half of their year. During the first half of the year, students go to class for five days a week, three hours a day. During class, students partake in lecture and lab. During the second half of the year, students take part in an internship at a dental office where they have the opportunity to assist dental assistants and work with patients.

Sofia Gazyeva, a senior at Del Campo High School and a student in the dental program, would like to pursue dental school at the University of the Pacific after she completes her undergraduate degree.

“I’ve always been interested in dentistry. I think it’s such an important part of people’s lives,” said Gazyeva. “Dentistry has a lot of aesthetic. It’s not only fixing teeth. We have to make it pretty, we have to understand the anatomy of the teeth. It’s sort of like making art because we’re helping people to have a nicer smile.”

The dental program facility at Encina is complete with examination equipment and X-ray rooms for students to learn and practice their skills. Photo of a model X-Ray lab

“Right now we’re working on making study models so that we can make bleach trays, we’ve done impressions, we learned how to work with fillings and other various procedures,” said Megan Manning, a senior at Rio Americano High School who is studying to be a dental hygienist. “I also really loving working with people. I love meeting them, setting up their appointments and really getting to know them on a personal level is something that I would really appreciate.”

The Dental Careers program offers many valuable attributes to students that gives them an advantage in the field, such as training in workplace procedures and certifications and licenses. Certificates students can earn include infection control, patient privacy and CPR.

Students also learn how to do new patient exams, work with patient charts, measure vital signs, seat patients and do temporary and composite fillings.

“One of our goals is to prepare students to take the Registered Dental Assistant examination with the state once they are done with the program so they can become registered dental assistants,” said Darren Law, Career and Technical Education (CTE) instructor for the dental careers.

To learn more about the dental careers program, click here