Central Carolina graduates first dental assistants
SANFORD — Big smiles were the order of the day as the first graduates of Central Carolina Community College’s new dental assisting program received their diplomas at the college’s May 8 commencement in the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.
“I’m excited,” said Margaret Woodruff, dental assisting lead instructor. “I feel like my children are graduating. To have nine in this new program and to have all nine graduate is remarkable to me.”
Those graduating were Jennifer Blalock and Randi Thomas, of Sanford; Robin Edwards and Rochelle Roberts, of Olivia; Crystal Stratton, of Broadway; Tiffany Kennedy, of Cameron; Tarzarra Meade, of Carthage; Katie Mangum, of Apex; and, Pamela Ruedas, of Raleigh.
Following the graduation, the class held a pinning ceremony at the Central Carolina Dental Center, where the program is located. Awards were presented to Randi Thomas — Academic Achievement; Crystal Stratton — Professionalism; Pamela Ruedas — Most Improved; Tarzarra Meade — Patient Management; and, Katie Mangum — Best All Around.
The graduates will now sit their national boards to be licensed as dental assistants. Some have already done so.
Woodruff said there has been a tremendous response from dental practices wanting to hire the graduates. She refers to dental assisting as a “great career in less than a year.” Kennedy said she originally planned to be a nurse, but switched to dental assisting. While completing her training, she worked with a dental practice in Sanford.
“It feels great to be done,” she said. “This program really prepared us for the work.”
Kennedy has a son who turns 2 on June 6. His mother’s career choice has already had a big impact on him.
“He loves to brush his teeth,” Kennedy said with a mother’s proud smile.
Dental assistants work with the dentist and may also manage the business side, depending on the size of the practice. They are trained to do procedures such as polishing, radiographs, and making and placing temporary crowns. They usually work a four-day week and make $15-$20 per hour to start.
In 2005, the college did a survey of dental practices in Lee, Harnett, Chatham, and Moore counties. It found that there would be a need for an additional 68 hygienists and 92 assistants within four years. It applied to the State Board of the N.C. Community College System for authorization to offer a dental program with an associate degree in dental hygiene and a diploma program in dental assisting.
Authorization was given in November 2005, and planning and equipping for the program moved forward. The American Dental Association accredited the program in February 2007 and the first dental assisting class, which has now graduated, started in March of that year.
“Dental assisting is a career with a lot of stability, and I enjoy helping others and making a difference,” said Mangum, who is already working at an orthodontics office in Cary. “This program prepared me well for the work.”
The college also offers a five-semester Associate in Applied Science degree in Dental Hygiene. For more information about dental assisting or dental hygiene, call the program office at (919) 775-2122.
The Dental Program’s training center is located at the W.B. Wicker Business Campus’s Central Carolina Dental Center, which also includes the Lee County Health Department’s Dental Clinic. The college’s advanced dental hygiene students help deliver services to the county’s patients.
The college’s dental facility was created without the use of taxpayer funding. Central Carolina received about $800,000 dollars in grants from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, N.C. Community College System’s Allied Health Grant Fund, GoldenLEAF Inc., Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, and the N.C. Dental Society’s Dental Health Endowment. Lee County Public Health received a grant from the Duke Endowment to help set up its Dental Clinic.
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