Chelsea Horne, a Nampa High School senior, takes dental impressions, polishes her classmates teeth and helps mount X-rays while in her dental class at Skyview High School.
The class is an opportunity for Chelsea to receive a dental assisting certificate before she starts college.
“I hope to work in a dental office to help pay my way through college,” Horne said. “It’s good money to make while in school.”
Nampa has offered a dental assisting program for 15 years, with 63 students enrolled this year.
“I’m seeing a huge interest and more students are wanting to take the class than ever before,” said Crisha Bollinger, the dental assisting instructor at Skyview High.
Bollinger worked for 15 years as a dental assistant and 13 years teaching at Carrington College. She helped write the fundamentals of the dental assisting curriculum for the Nampa School District and has taught at the high school level ever since.
“Students have to learn how to balance because they have to get the didactic education first and then the opportunity to do hands-on activities,” said Bollinger.
Teens start the program their junior year. The program prepares students to meet the expectations of the dental office environment and provides the tools they need to be successful in a postsecondary hygienist or dental lab technician program.
Students meet nearly eight hours a week. The classroom is equipped with four workstations. Students participate in chair side exercises and experience related dental services such as x-ray, instrument identification, tooth health, disease control and dental laboratory activities.
“This is a way for me to expose high school students to the dental field,” Bollinger said. “I want my students to figure out if they enjoy the industry before going onto college.”
After two years of classes and 30 hours of observation in a dental office, students can test for an Idaho Fundamentals of Dental Certificate. It’s the same certification sought by trade school and community college students, but free of charge.
Funding for the program comes from private donations, Nampa’s Idaho Center for Advanced Technology (ICAT) and career and technical education funds from the state.
“This class is preparing me for my health classes I plan to take while in college,” Horne said.