|The Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center (GACTC) in central Pennsylvania offers a relatively new program in dentistry that is considered an advancement in the dental assistant field.
The Altoona Mirror reports that GACTC is one of the few schools in the country that offers an “Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary” (EFDA) program. The program teaches dental assistants the traditional skills of dental work as well as more sophisticated procedures. Though EFDAs are not permitted to drill teeth, they can place fillings, install temporary crowns and bridges, and perform other dental work that conventional dental assistants cannot.
According to Tom Zajac, the EFDA program coordinator, the purpose of EFDA training is to provide more services to the public previously reserved for dentists. The more EFDAs who graduate from dental schools, the more bridge work and fillings can be performed — without the long waits and appointment dates in dentist offices across the country.
“The thought behind physicians assistants was so that doctors could see more patients every day,” Zajac said. “An EFDA is like a physicians assistant for a dentist.”
The program can be fulfilled in one of two ways: a full-time 10-month program or a part-time 12-weekend program. Though the two options vary in span, they both require the same amount of class and clinical time.
“It’s a very rigorous process because it puts the academic and hands-on (work) together,” Zajac said.
Students interested in the program must complete at least 200 hours of schooling and pass the State Board of Dentistry Exam before acceptance.
One of those students, 19 year-old Ashlee Fagans, said the program puts a heavy emphasis on clinical work.
“I’m more of a hands-on person,” Fagans said. She admitted her favorite part of the program is “definitely working with the patients.”
“I kind of just fell in love with it,” she said.
Dental work, both cosmetic and non-cosmetic, is increasing in popularity in the United States. Three million Americans, for example, have dental implants — with half a million new patients getting them every year.