Sandhills Dental Career Center has been transforming lives and creating careers for 16 years. The center, established in 2007 in Aberdeen, has consistently produced skilled dental assistants, with the 53rd class now in session.
For 11 Saturdays each session, future dental assistants gather to learn the tools of the trade. This fast-paced, hands-on curriculum covers various aspects of the profession, including dental assisting, dental radiology, CPR, OSHA compliance and sterilization, and emergency training for dental employees. At the end of the course, students receive their official certification as a dental assistant.
According to Director of Education Renate Yow, many Sandhills Dental Career Center graduates find work immediately after completion — and some are even approached and offered jobs before the session finishes.
“We have worked with many offices that don’t even post jobs,” explained Yow. “They just call us, and we send them a roster of graduated students for their firm to contact. We have so many offices calling who have hired our assistants in the past and simply call us when they are looking for new help.”
The center’s close network of dental offices, which frequently hire their graduates, is proof of the school’s success in producing top-notch dental assistants.
Yow further explained there is currently a “huge shortage” of dental assistants, making dental assistants highly sought after. They instill confidence in their students by keeping class sizes small, allowing for one-on-one instruction, and helping students feel secure about entering the job market.
Yet, Yow believes that what sets Sandhills Dental Career Center apart from the rest is their ability to create professionals who aren’t just skilled at the technicalities of their trade but know how to communicate effectively, using patient-friendly language and fostering compassion.
“We teach our students that their job as a dental assistant is a liaison between the patient and the dentist; it’s their job to make them feel comfortable and educate them,” Yow explained. “We do a very good job teaching them how to talk to patients in terminology that patients can understand.”
Sandhills Dental Career Center collaborates with local dental firms to create a hands-on experience with equipment, facilities, and tools available at the center. This allows students to connect with real-world cases, work with state-of-the-art equipment, and experience the field firsthand through direct exposure.
Yow firmly believes that this vocational approach is vital in an era when many believe that a college degree is the only path to success.
“Being a vocational program, we allow students to continue their regular jobs and take our classes on off days to make it easier for them to be able to change careers or be educated in a new field,” she explained. “Then, we always have work; it’s such a rewarding career. You get to have an impact on people’s lives and see them change.”
For those seeking a career in the field of assistant dentistry, Sandhills Dental Career Center offers three class sessions each year: winter, spring, and fall. Those with a high school diploma or GED are welcome to apply online. Classes start at 9 a.m. and typically finish around 3:30 p.m., providing students with an opportunity to build a new career alongside their current work schedule on the weekends.
Sandhills Dental Career Center is located at 1902 N Sandhills Blvd J in Aberdeen. For more information, visit www.sandhillsdentalcareercenter.com.
~Article and photos by Sandhills Sentinel reporter Abegail Murphy.