Interview with the Dental Director of DATS/Rio Grande Valley

Dr. Glen Thomason
Dr. Glen Thomason, DATS Dental Director

I’m Dr. Glen Thomason. I’m a general dentist. I’ve been in practice for some 40 years. I am currently the Dental Director of our DATS program here at Harlingen Family Dentistry.

In that capacity, I supervise and instruct each of our DATS classes. DATS stands for Dental Assistant Training School,

Here at Harlingen Family Dentistry, we have been doing this for approximately 18 years. Each class is limited, at the top to about 15 students. We are fortunate in that we can offer the class twice a year and we graduate, therefore, approximately 30 students a year who are qualified then to take their licensing examination by the State to become a certified dental assistant.

What are the duties of a dental assistant? How does it different from a dental hygienist?

The duties of a dental assistant are very specific, and specified by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. All dental assistants work under the direct supervision of a dentist. And in that capacity, they are usually assisting the dentist at the dental chair in the delivery of dental care to the patient.

That can involve the use of mixing various dental materials and impression materials, assisting in dental surgery. Not necessarily the placement of sutures but the removal of sutures.

The good thing about dental assisting is that a dental assistant is not just limited to working for a general dentist. The students that we graduate are able to go into the workforce and work for orthodontists, periodontists, oral surgeons and other various dental specialities. And so, it gives our students a wide selection of job opportunities that they would like to participate in.

One of the things that I am particularly proud of is that we have had a number of students that started out, who took the course, became dental assistants, and then over the course of a few years, decided that they wanted to become dental hygienists. A dental hygienist’s duties are also specified by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners.

The dental hygienists responsibilities are related to the cleaning of teeth, the placement of dental sealants, and the treatment in some cases of gum disease. It usually, to become a dental hygienist in Texas, requires two years of training at a certified school that offers a dental hygiene program. And so we have had a few students who have gone on to become a dental hygienist.

And then we have had a few students who have gone on to become dentists.

So, one of the things I have always made a point to tell our students is that dental assisting is just your foot in the door, if you will.

And I always tell them if you take the course and even if you decide at the end of the course that being a dental assistant isn’t for you, you’ve still won something. And that is you’ve determined that you wanted to go on to something else.

But for most of our students here, they have an interest in the subject and in the course and the course is offered over a period of about eight weeks.

It’s intensive, hands-on training.

The fact that it is offered here in our clinic gives us the opportunity to have our students participate in the functioning of dental assistant duties within the clinic itself. And usually by about the second week, we have them downstairs, first observing what is going on in the dental care areas with the doctors. And then usually after the third or fourth week they are actually taking x-rays. They are starting to participate in some of the duties that the dental assistant usually do.

What would you tell someone that visited the site and was actually thinking of taking the program. What would you tell them?

Well, what I would like for any person to do that sees our web site is to call our office and you can speak directly to me.

I would be more than happy to take your call.

And what I would like to do is to invite you to come in, maybe for a day or two and just sort of shadow some of our dental assistants on our clinic floor. And then after you have done that, if you feel like this is something that you would like to further pursue, then we can talk to you.

We usually have our students, our students to be, come in and spend an hour or two with some of the people that assist me and get their questions answered about the course and the cost. And various questions like that.

How long is the program when you start them training program in that. How long, over what period?

It last eight weeks. From start to finish. We meet two nights a week. From approximately 6:00pm to 10:00pm. And during that two nights a week, we can cover a lot of ground in terms of what is expected of a dental assistant.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Well, I think that I just would like to encourage anyone that has an interest to please contact our office.

I tell all of our students we are not here to serve as a hindrance in the pursuit of your goals. We are here to help you. And we want you to succeed.

And so please give us a call. We would love to visit with you. We’d love to show you our clinic. We’d love to answer any of your questions.

We would like to do everything we can to make your dream come true.