case western reserve university



Case dental school begins dental assistant training program

Beginning in July, the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine will start offering a new training program for dental assistants in the Greater Cleveland area.

The new program responds to a critical shortage of dental assistants—often described as the “right hand of the dentist,” according to Ronald Occhionero, D.D. S., associate dean of administration at the Case dental school.

“Employment opportunities for dental assistants are excellent,” said Occhionero. When Case Western Reserve University’s School of Dental Medicine goes to fill its dental assistant vacancies in the school’s dental clinics, it can take up to four months to find an available assistant for the job, he said.

As a vital member of the dental office team, dental assistants provide a variety of services—assisting with treatment procedures; taking medical histories, blood pressures and pulse; teaching patients about proper oral hygiene; taking impressions of patient’s teeth for models of the teeth; providing follow-up instruction after surgery; serving as the infectious disease control officer of the practice; and helping patients feel comfortable during their office visit. Dental assistants work in a variety of settings from the private practice to group, hospital, public health, specialty practice or even dental school clinics.

The yearlong, full-time program at Case offers unique opportunities for post-high school students and adults not found in other programs in Ohio, according to Occhionero.

The dental assistant instructional training will take place in state-of-the-art classrooms, equipped with patient simulator technology—similar learning equipment used by students enrolled and being trained as future dentists. The dental assistants will gain 300 hours of professional experience through the Case dental clinics, which host thousands of patient visits each year, and learn to work with student, faculty and community dentists in settings that will prepare the assistant as a member of the professional office team. Students also will have externship opportunities with professional dentists in the community.

The courses provide dental assistant candidates with the educational experiences that will lead to national certification as dental assistants as well as licensing in the State of Ohio as dental radiographers, a specialty area that graduates from other programs obtained through continuing education classes.

This is indeed a unique opportunity for students, too, because the training will occur at a school of dental medicine.

Occhionero noted that one unique advantage to this dental assistant training is that it takes place in a major dental school. Case dental assistant students can meet and work with dental students, setting out to establish new practices and offices, or dentists with established practices. Students also will have the opportunity to learn, observe and work with Case dental faculty members, who are teaching and practicing some of the most advanced dental techniques in general dentistry and all the dental specialties.

In addition to the dental assistant training, the Case dental school provides a popular training program for assistants who would like to advance their careers and become Expanded Functional Dental Auxiliaries (EFDA). EFDAs perform preventative or restorative procedures under the direct supervision of a dentist. Students who excel in the dental assistant program now will have an opportunity to advance to the EFDA program, currently only open to working dental assistants who have the recommendation of their dental employer.

Those interested in applying must have a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED). They need to fill out an application and submit it to the dental school by May 15 for the program that begins July 25. All applicants will be required to take math, English and hand-eye coordination skills tests.

For additional information about the dental assistant program, call Janet Draganic, coordinator of administration, Case School of Dental Medicine at 216-368-1900 or e-mail questions to


About Case Western Reserve University

Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work.