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A school that trains dental assistants now gives its students a chance to watch dental work being done on real people, instead of just on training mannequins. 

Hester School of Dental Assisting began offering clinic services every Friday a little more than a year ago, Myrna Eichler, Hester Dental Clinic’s office manager, told a recent visitor.

Elicia Hester has operated her namesake school since 2012 in a former bank building just north of Brandywine Shopping Village on U.S. Highway 17. Potential students must be at least 18 years old, have a high-school diploma or GED (or equivalent), and be up-to-date on all immunizations, among other requirements.

Hester was out of the country and not available for this report, but on the school’s website she says she founded Hester School of Dental Assisting to help others pursue a rewarding career in the field of dentistry. Her goal is to provide students with the hands-on skills and knowledge to embark upon a successful career in the dental health care profession.

Hester School’s programs are licensed by the Commission for Independent Education, and its curriculum is approved by the Florida Board of Dentistry, the website says.

Once enrolled, students take 10 months of in-house classes and lab work in a building equipped with a standard classroom and a four-chair “operatory” (basically, four fully functional dentist chairs set up side by side), as well as a laboratory and a sterilization room.

Students then get two months of externship before receiving their certification in dental assisting with expanded function. “Expanded function” means that, unlike most other dental-assisting schools, Hester’s students are trained in using radiation for X-rays and in performing CPR.

They’re also taught about regulations surrounding federal occupational safety and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, Eichler said.

Once certified, dental assistants can help dentists with all aspects of patient care.

Classes for the yearlong training program are held 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

On Fridays, the students get to see real-world dentistry in action. Juan Amaya, D.D.S., working with a Certified Dental Assistant, sees patients 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in the four-chair classroom.

“We’re the only dental-assistant school in Florida with an included clinic,” Eichler said. “We’re very affordable.”

The clinic isn’t free, but it does offer its services at very low cost, in part to provide a learning experience for the school’s students. Only in rare occasions will the students perform any hands-on work, and patients can opt out in advance of allowing students to observe or participate in their treatment, Eichler said.

“We perform only the services wanted by the patients,” Eichler said. “We offer discounts and payment plans on top of the already-low fees.”

Hester is looking for another dentist who can work other days of the week so clinic services can be expanded to cover more people, she said.

“We’re here to serve the community and help them with their dental needs,” she said.

For more information or to contact the school, go to www.hesterschool.com.

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