Dental Assistant Externships (ALL You Need to Know)

There’s no better classroom than the real world. The hands-on training and education you can get by putting newly-acquired knowledge and skills into practice via a dental assisting externship helps establish a level of permanence within a student’s career toolbox and helps them build confidence in themselves and their abilities.

This is why externships play such an essential role in the education and training we provide in certain programs we teach at Florida Career College, including the Dental Assistant program. By applying what they learned at Florida Career College within a real-world environment – one overseen by seasoned professionals who serve as mentors within this phase of the program – students are able to hone their skills with more confidence, but they also learn what it takes to succeed within their new career field.

And for some students, these on-site mentors could even become their future employers once their externship is complete!

If you’re interested in becoming a dental assistant, consider enrolling in FCC’s Dental Assistant Training Program. The program will provide you with the knowledge and skills you need for an entry-level dental assistant career. The great thing about this program is that it can be completed in as few as 10 months. Now, this blog post will provide you with everything you need to know about dental assistant externships.

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Why Do You Need a Dental Assistant Externship?

The main purpose of including a dental assistant externship as part of a student’s education experience at FCC is to provide additional insight and knowledge about the dental field.

What’s it like to work in a dental clinic? What’s required when working side-by-side with a dentist and their team? How is the clinic managed, and what role does a dental assistant play in ensuring things operate more smoothly within the practice?

By working within the dentistry environment and seeing for themselves the tasks and expectations clinics have when it comes to dental assisting, students are able to enter their new career fields with their eyes wide open, better understanding what’s required to succeed within the field.

In addition, externships allow students to practice some of the skills they learned in the classroom and lab but do so within a real-world environment. With professional mentors present to oversee the work, answer questions, and provide helpful tips, FCC Dental Assistant students can hone their skills while gaining the poise they need to enter the workforce with a higher level of professional confidence.

Finally, externships give students an opportunity to make an impression on what could become an important professional reference and possibly a future employer. When entering a new career field, making a good impression is critical as there’s always the possibility it could lead to new opportunities.

Finding a Dental Assistant Externship

The externship is the last module of training Dental Assistant students will complete and must pass, prior to graduation from FCC College. As such, FCC’s Career Services department continually works with students and local businesses in establishing externship opportunities for those in the Dental Assistant program.

But while FCC actively secures externship sites, students may also take it upon themselves to locate their own sites. In this case, students must still work with the school to ensure the dental clinic, lab, etc., qualifies as an externship site under FCC standards, and to make sure the institution is prepared to fully evaluate students on skill performance, subject knowledge, professionalism, and attendance.

Preparing for Your Dental Assistant Externship

Though your externship module serves as an extension of your educational experience with FCC, it’s critical you think of it as much more than just another class. Think of your externship as a job and not simply as another approaching module. As such, it’s important you dress appropriately and show up on time – even a little early – to your shifts.

Beyond this, it’s also important you do your homework about the site (i.e., the clinic, practice, lab, etc.) to help ensure you’re set up for success from day one. That includes staying in touch with the site to ensure you’re prepared for the experience, from when to show up and what to wear to get a general idea as to what the first few days will look like.

Will you be job shadowing for a few days, or do they expect you’ll go straight to chairside assisting? Will you be working side-by-side with someone in particular? Never be afraid to ask questions that you feel may help you prepare to be your best.

Also, don’t forget to use your FCC Dental Assistant instructors as a resource. Pick their brains for tips on how they prepared for their first days on the job, and learn what it took them to overcome day-one anxiety while getting the most out of the externship experience. Career Services can also be a resource for this as they’ve helped hundreds of students succeed in their externships.

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What to Expect of Your Dental Assistant Externship

Every student’s externship experience is going to be unique in some way, but in general, they follow a similar process. For example, don’t expect to dive right in on the first day. Typically, externships begin with some training and helping until you develop an understanding of the practice, its expectations, and how they operate.

Be prepared to absorb a lot of information on these days – we suggest you take notes – and don’t forget to ask questions of your own. Not only will you be learning about them, their processes and procedures, and their expectations for you, but they will also be learning about you. What are you interested in? What can you handle? What are your strengths, and what skills do you bring to the table?

When you’ve shown that you’re ready to take on more tasks, the externship will progress into more hands-on training, learning, and doing. This may include everything from front-end administrative and billing work to back-office tasks like preparing examination instruments and rooms to chairside assisting.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of the Externship Experience

What you get out of your Dental Assistant externship experience is often up to you. If you go in unprepared and passive, it’s not likely to do much for you. But, if you go into the experience prepared, open-minded, eager to learn, and ready to work, you will not only come away with greater skills and professional confidence, but you’ll also leave a lasting positive impression with the staff.

With this in mind, consider the following tips for getting the most out of your Dental Assistant externship experience:

Win the ‘Little’ Things: Don’t let the excitement of on-the-job training cause you to overlook the little things that can make all the difference in your success, such as showing up on time every day, dressing appropriately for work, maintaining a positive, approachable demeanor, and so on.

Bring a Notebook & Pen: A lot of information will be thrown at you during your externship, especially during the first few days. Taking notes will help ensure you remember it all and, hence, perform according to expectations. It will also show that you’re engaged and serious about performing well.

Ask Lots of Questions: Asking questions does not make you look unprepared, weak, or unintelligent. In fact, it does the exact opposite. Asking questions shows that you’re an engaged and thoughtful person who intends to perform well. It can also open the door to new professional experiences. So, ask plenty of questions!

Be a Good Listener: The best way to soak up as much information and knowledge as possible during your Dental Assistant externship is to be a good, active listener. This means not only hearing what’s being said, but recording important information in your notebook as asking questions that further enhance communication with the staff.

Turn to Your Mentors for Help: Just because you’re done with classes doesn’t mean your instructors can’t be good resources. If you have questions or concerns about your externship experience, your Florida Career College instructors are typically just a phone call away.

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