Interview with the Dental Director of DATS/Rio Grande Valley

I am Dr. Vivian Teegardin. I am a general dentist and I have been in practice for 29 years. I am currently the Dental Instructor of the Dental Assistant Training School (DATS) program here at Harlingen Family Dentistry.

In that capacity, I supervise and instruct most of the classes.

Here at Harlingen Family Dentistry, we have been offering these classes for the past 21 years. Each class is limited to approximately 15 students. We are fortunate in that we can offer the class twice a year and we graduate, therefore, 30 students a year who are qualified then to take their licensing examination by the State to become a Registered Dental Assistant.

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

The duties of a dental assistant are very specific as specified by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. All dental assistants work under the direct supervision of a dentist. They usually assist 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 and assisting in dental surgery.

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 specialties. And so, it gives our students a wide selection of job opportunities that they may choose as their career path.

We have had a number of students that started out, who took the course, became dental assistants, and then over a few years, decided that they wanted to become a dental hygienist. To become a dental hygienist in Texas requires two years of training at a certified school that offers a dental hygiene program. A dental hygienist’s duties are also specified by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. The dental hygienist’s responsibilities are related to the cleaning of teeth, the placement of dental sealants, and the treatment in some cases of gum disease.

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

Call our office and speak with our DATS coordinator. Her name is Cheryl Dosal. She’s more than happy to take your call and answer any questions you may have. If you feel like this is something that you would like to further pursue, then this course is for you! You are welcome to call and arrange to come in and to shadow our assistants.

How long is the entire course of the program? What specifics can you share about it?

This course is offered over a period of nine weeks from start to finish. We meet two nights a week, from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm. It’s intensive, hands-on training. Our students get certified in CPR, OSHA, and HIPAA. They have the opportunity to work with and learn from dentists and assistants. 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 our students are given the chance to complete their internship hours here.

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

I would like to encourage anyone that has an interest in dentistry to please contact our office.

We are here to help you, and we want you to succeed. Dentistry is a wonderful career and can serve as a stepping stone to making your career goals a reality.