Helping their students find “the same passion and commitment” to dental health shared by all those involved with the instructional program of Family and Cosmetic Dental Assisting (F&CDA) is a sentiment about which Angela Additon and Amanda Sasseville are in total agreement. The intensive 12-week training program provided through the practice of Dr. Mitchell Auster, in Lewiston, that will begin its fourth class this fall was their collective brainchild.
“Dental assisting,” says their introductory letter to new students, “is a career focused on improving the oral health of the community and a valuable source of patient information.” The particular course offered by F&CDA enables its students to immediately begin careers in this quickly growing and vitally important field. All of Maine’s 16 counties currently have dental health professional shortages, an alarming statistic that the F&CDA program is intended to help address.
Certified Dental Assistant and Expanded Function Dental Assistant Amanda Sasseville began working as a general “chairside” dental assistant in this area, directly out of high school. She progressed through years of experience, training and certifications so that she is now able to provide a variety of para-professional dental services, including the placement of dental fillings.
After accumulating experience as a chairside dental assistant, and then a registered dental hygienist, Angela Additon completed a Bachelor of Science degree in dental hygiene, earning the credentials needed to teach. Both women are Lewiston natives and they regard the class as a “way of giving back to the community.”
“When I first started,” Additon said, “I often wished that ‘they would have taught me that,’ in my own training,” a sentiment echoed by Sasseville, who suggested, “Why don’t we design our own course, the way we would have liked to have been taught?”
Dr. Mitchell Auster, who has practiced dentistry in Lewiston for some 38 years, quickly agreed to the suggestion and oversaw the creation of a detailed syllabus and supporting instructional materials, schedules and techniques.
Additon and Sasseville said that Auster’s office “is unlike any other [we’ve ever seen]. We have a great family atmosphere. Dr. Auster has been so generous with his time and knowledge; we are really dedicated to perpetuating what he has accomplished.”
Additon has also made clear that she intends to be the “first applicant, and also the first graduate,” of the new dental school being established later this year at the University of New England in Portland.
Prospective students are encouraged to job shadow dental assistants and hygienists in Auster’s office before committing to the course. “Not everyone can work in the mouth,” Additon affirmed, “but those who can, should.”
Job shadowing is intended to demonstrate what students can expect both during the intensive course, which includes lectures, labs and exclusive hands-on experience, as well as when students embark on their own career paths after graduating and earning appropriate licenses. “We’re not looking for people who just want jobs,” the women agreed. “We want people who are looking for careers.”
Fall classes, including both lectures and labs every week, will be held on Saturdays, from September 8 through December 1. Twelve students will be accepted for the program, and while most students in the first three sessions have come from the Lewiston-Auburn area, some have travelled as much as an hour each way, so unique is this program.
In addition to clinical preparation, graduates will earn a CPR and first-aid certification and be competent to sit for the national radiology exam so that they will be qualified to administer dental X-rays.
The curriculum covers everything from the fundamentals of sterilization and instrumentation, dental anatomy, and chairside set-ups; taking impressions, fabrication of temporary crowns and bridges; and local anesthesia set up and break down, radiation health and safety, and digital radiographs. Students apply for state board exams during the 10th week of the course, and the final session includes exam preparation and review.
“This has been an exciting career for us,” Additon said, “and we want to help others learn all about it.” The fall session will begin with an orientation meeting at 5 p.m. on the evening of Wednesday, September 5. For more information, call 784-2142. Auster’s office, at 1065 Lisbon St., in Lewiston, includes state-of-the-art technology at every level of care, and students will work with all of it.