24/7 A DA You Should Know

Carolyn Regan
Marina Cooke


Maria Cascio
Kathryn Harstine
Valencia Hogan
Brittany Ashenfelter


A Dental Assistant You Should Know
Carolyn A. Regan, CMSgt, USAF
AF Career Field Manager, Dental Services
Air Force Medical Operations Agency
ADAA Federal Trustee
Editor's note:  CMSgt Carolyn Regan will be retiring from the United States Air Force after more than 30 years of service.  Her retirement ceremony will be held in San Antonio, Texas on March 21, 2013 and will be attended by the ADAA Officers and Board of Trustees.
After joining  the Air Force without a guaranteed job, I was given the job as dental assistant.  I attended the Air Force Dental Assistant Apprentice Course at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas in 1984.  Since then, I completed an Associate Degree in Dental Assisting through the Community College of the Air Force and Bachelor’s Degree in Management and I have started on my Master’s Degree Program.
Some of the first dentists I worked for were my favorites.  Dr. Olinger and then Dr. Felt were easy to work for, would teach me  and treated me as part of the team. As I progressed through my career, I worked with Dr. Williams, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Knutson,  and Dr. Rice in the management of a clinic and they treated me as an equal and valued my opinion/input in the clinic operations.
Being in the military, I worked in many parts of the dental clinic.  I started out at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado (now closed) where I learned the basics of dental assisting. I moved on to Germany and was still assisting but also worked at the front desk and dental supply.  Then I moved to Arizona, where I learned how to clean teeth along with more time at the front desk and supply.  The next base was in Georgia, where I was stationed for seven years and I worked in many different areas and where I started working the clinic management role which I continued for the next few bases.  I spent four years at our “schoolhouse” at Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas.  I was in a unit leadership role where we trained all the Air Force dental laboratory technicians and dental assistants.
I finally ended up in San Antonio Texas as the Air Force Dental Career Field Manager.  In this role, I am responsible for the career progression and force development programs for all the dental assistants, dental laboratory technicians and dental hygienist in the Air Force.  It has been the most rewarding job and I spend a lot of my time working on programs to advance those professions and speaking to our members about their careers.  I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I love being an advocate for the profession on dental assisting.
The best part of my job is the people I work with and knowing what I do makes a difference for all dental assistants, hygienists and lab technicians in the Air Force.  My greatest accomplishment as a dental assistant is reaching the pinnacle job as the Career Field Manager and getting to be the advocate and representative for all our dental ancillary staff members.  I would not change too much about my career but I would probably spend more time in direct patient care as I started the administrative track early, which has been great it but not as rewarding as working directly with the dentists and patients.
When the Air Force partnered with ADAA in 2008, I became a member.  As the AF Dental Career Field Manager, I was assigned as the Federal District Trustee.  I have been the ADAA Federal District Trustee since 2010.  Being with other professionals who love dental assisting and who advocate for the profession is the best part of being an ADAA member.  The first time I attended the ADAA House of Delegates meeting at my first annual session, I was amazed at how professional the entire proceeding was and how many dental assistants get involved in the ADAA at their local and national levels.  It made me proud to be a member.
In the next 10-20 years, I hope dental assisting becomes more of a recognized profession and assistants are appreciated for what they do and not thought of as the “hygienist” anymore. Dental Assistants need a national credential and required continuing education to sustain the certification and their working knowledge.  My advice to future dental assistants is to love what you do, get involved in the patient encounter, don’t be just a bystander.  Realize that you are part of an important profession and get involved in the advancement of the profession and realize that it can be a lifelong career.
As I retire from the Air Force, I am looking to the future.  I don’t plan to get a job right away but I will be looking in the civilian dental assistant sector, more in the management realm where I have the most experience.  Also, I will stay involved in the ADAA locally and nationally, I strongly believe in the ADAA and want to continue to be a part of the organization.
Carolyn A. Regan, CMSgt, USAF
Congratulations and thank you CMSgt Regan for being a part of A Dental Assistant You Should Know!


A Dental Assistant You Should Know
Marina Cooke, CDA

Marina Cooke, CDA from Anderson, SC, was appointed as the 2014 ADAA Student Trustee at the ADAA Annual Session in New Orleans in November, 2013.  Here is an interview with Ms Cooke.
How did you decide to become a dental assistant?
I decided to become a dental assistant while a stay at home mother. I contemplated going back into the field of business administration and felt that I wanted something more hands on, service oriented that had better hours for a very active and involved parent.
My mother was also very inspirational as she was also a dental assistant as a young woman in my home town in California.
How did you choose your dental assisting school?
I chose my school while still living in Hilton Head Island. Because I was moving to the Anderson, SC area I had two choices: Greenville Technical College or Tri County Technical College. I went with GTC because of its great reputation in the community with dental professionals and their curriculum. I also knew that they were selective and considered many factors when choosing applicants which made me feel as though they only cared to produce quality rather than quantity. That was a major selling point for me.
What factors should prospective students consider when choosing a school?
A student must decide what is most important to them. Location from home, time commitment, class access ability (internet and online module or homework submissions), internship opportunities, rate of success in finding employment for students are all very important.
Has there been a part of your education that has been really helpful for you in the learning process?  If so, please describe?
The hands on training that I received from office rotations dually with the very detailed instruction that I received from my instructors made me feel comfortable, prepared and confident in the operatory. It is important to learn through action in this profession and for me the more the more hands on I was, the more I learned.
What do you like about your dental assisting education/career so far?
I enjoy the both the independence and trust I am given to perform various tasks as well as working with a great team to help patients. The whole experience has been very eye opening and rewarding.
As a Student, what steps are you taking to launch your dental assisting career?
As a student, I took part in my local SADAA chapter and continue to work with the SC State Chapter to improve upon our local website. I also applied for the position of Student Trustee because I see the value that both a varied perspective and involvement can make in both my profession and myself as a professional.
Are you pursuing your CDA or state certifications?  What are the requirements in your state?
I am currently a CDA who has met all state certification requirements. However, I would like to pursue the Fellowship/Mastership Program in the near future as a goal.
Have you worked with any dentists yet and, if so, how was your experience?
I am currently a CDA for Anderson General Dentistry located in the Anmed Health Campus of Anderson, SC. I have found that all dentists have a very different work method from one another and it is important to be flexible and possess an ability to adapt. I now work for two dentists who work very different from one another, so it is important that from one patient to the next I am able to accommodate both the dentist and the patient with ease.
What was it like when you assisted with your first patient, or do you have a story of a memorable patient?
My first experience with a patient was during clinical rotations at Greenville Technical College where I assisted an MUSC dental student with an extraction. I was very nervous and spent more time mesmerized by what he was doing than actually passing instruments. At the time, I was just grateful to absorb and glad that I didn’t pass out as some of my classmates had.
Which area of dental assisting do you prefer (chairside, admin, etc) and why?
I definitely prefer chairside. I enjoy making crowns with the Cerec and also assisting directly with the dentist. The patients rely on a good presence in the operatory while they are being worked on and I really enjoy providing a positive experience through support to the patient and the dentist. I suppose it’s the mother in me but I love it when I can turn a patient who hates the dentist and is scared to be in the chair change their mind because we have made them feel happy and comfortable.
What advice do you have to share with others looking to become a dental assistant?
Being a dental assistant is very rewarding, challenging and something that takes a patient and kind hearted person. There is no room to get frustrated but you are rewarded greatly by building great relationships and the work that we do really makes you feel good.
Where do you think Dental Assisting as a career is heading in the next 10-20 years?
I am certain that the list of expanded functions for dental assistants will continue to increase and more responsibility and education will become a requirement. I also believe that mandatory educational requirements will become necessary for anyone to work as a dental assistant nationwide in the future.
If you could change anything about the dental assisting profession, what would it be?
If I could change anything, it would be how we are perceived by the public and our pay scale.
What are your goals for the future?
I hope to find a way to both utilize my dental assisting skills and business administration background to help my community. I have not decided how best to do that yet but I am a constant work in progress and I expect that as time goes by I will work through this goal and make it a reality.
How did you find out about ADAA?  When did you join?
I joined as a student in 2012 and I was informed about the organization through my instructor Tonya Riggins.
How do you think the ADAA can be more beneficial to student?
I hope that students will be able to search for job positions, learn more about educational opportunities and stay connected with other student groups more readily through communication mediums in the near future.
You recently won an award from the ADAA.  Tell us a little about what you did to be selected as a recipient?
I completed an application, wrote a short essay and was interviewed by phone with numerous ADAA representatives.
For you, what is the best part of being an ADAA member?
The best part for me is being able to converse with such talented and intelligent woman with whom I share the bond of dental assisting. I also like being kept informed of changes to regulations, continuing education and educational advancement opportunities.




Maria Cascio

Originally, I  went to sign up for the radiology program at Midlands Tech and was informed that it was several years waiting list to get in.  The advisor informed me that dental assisting had radiology as part of its program.  I decided to take it and then may go for radiology later. Well GOD had a perfect plan for me because dental assisting is what I love.
Over the 36+ years I have been a dental assistant, I have worked for seven dentists.  The ones I really enjoyed working with are Dr. Charles Millwood Jr., Dr. Frank Hines, and I am currently working with Dr. Edward Davis.  I would not be able to pick a favorite out of these three. They are all special to me in their own way.
I have worked in all areas including lab.  I started out in general dentistry as a chairside assistant that was with Dr. Millwood.  I learned so much from him. I often tell him he molded me into the dental assistant I am today.  He was very demanding but that was good.  Then I worked in orthodontics, Dr. Hines and his son.  They are wonderful people and it was such a joy.  There I did chairside and labs.
One of our wonderful patients at the office was a dentist's son.  He always requested me to work on him, and when I was in the lab he would come sit and watch me work.  He is now a dentist and told me that his dad and the love I have for my profession influenced him.  Now I work at Dr. Davis’ office as the Diagnostic Records Specialist where I take all the initial and final records.
I found out about the ADAA through school. I was a student member and kept my membership since.  I have held local offices as President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary; and at the state level I have been Treasurer, Secretary and Education Chair.  I have also chaired and served on many committees, and served as a national delegate.
The best part of the ADAA is the feeling of belonging, a sense of sisterhood, and proving dental assisting is a profession, not just a job.  I have also received two awards; the Earline Cromley Richardson Memorial Achievement award and Achievement award for work done in a local society. 
The patients always make me feel so loved.  They ask me to be their friends on Facebook and their parents want to go out to lunch with me and want to be my friend.  I am a hugger.  I hug the patients and their parents.  They see me out from work and come over to hug me.
I would like to see that credentialing will be a must in all states, because I see more and more expanded duties being done by the dental assistant.  My advice to other assistants is to always put the patient first, as they are the most important person in the office, and always be compassionate towards all people.
Congratulations and thank you Maria for being a part of A Dental Assistant You Should Know!
Email - mburkhalter1@yahoo.com
Employer - Dr. Edward Davis, Orthodontics, 143 Medical Circle West Columbia, SC. 29169



Congratulations to Katie Harstine who has been elected as the new ADAA Student Trustee for 2012-2013!  Katie recently graduated from Citrus College in Glendora, CA.  For more information on how to contact Katie or start a student chapter, contact ADAA Central Office.  24/7 wanted to know more about Katie and here is her response:
24/7:  How did you decide to become a dental assistant?
Katie:  My uncle, who is a general dentist, played a big role in why I chose to become a dental assistant. I was attending a Cal State University and felt like I was going nowhere and none the classes I was taking sparked my interest. I was talking to my uncle one day, asking him about his job and career options; after that I began researching all of my own options and decided that dental assisting suited me best.
24/7:  How did you choose your dental assisting school?
Katie:  I researched 3 different schools in my area, I went to each of them and got information; I went with questions prepared so that I could make the best decision. Cost, location, and pass rates on state exams were what lead me to my school choice.
24/7:  What factors should prospective students consider when choosing a school?
Katie:  Cost, statistics on pass/fail rates on state exams, professionalism, and intern experience provided.
24/7:  Has there been a part of your education that has been really helpful for you in the learning process? If so, please describe?
Katie:  Completing my internship in two dental offices was one of the biggest helps in my learning process, being hands on outside the classroom is very eye opening.
24/7:  What do you like about your dental assisting education/career so far?
Katie:  I love that there is always something to learn, new technology, and no two days are alike in this field.
24/7:  As a Student, what steps are you taking to launch your dental assisting career?
Katie:  As a student, I made sure that I mastered soft skills as well as the technical skills of dental assisting. Being able to do a procedure is one thing but being a team player, personable, and being able to communicate with patients and staff members is of the most importance.
24/7:  Are you pursuing your CDA or state certifications?  What are the requirements in your state?
Katie:  I am currently not pursuing my CDA certification, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t in the future.
24/7:  If you are no longer in school, do you continue your education, and if so what type?
Katie: Other than the regular required CE’s, I am currently not continuing my education, I eventually would like to go back to school and attain my bachelor’s degree and teaching credential.
24/7:  Have you worked with any dentists yet and, if so, how was your experience?
Katie:  I am currently working for an Orthodontist in Covina CA, Dr. Mark A. Wong, and my experience is nothing but amazing. The entire staff is beyond words, I feel truly blessed to be working for such a wonderful doctor. I get to help make beautiful smiles everyday which fills me with pride.
24/7:  What was it like when you assisted with your first patient, or do you have a story of a memorable patient?
Katie:  I was very nervous with my first patient, I was shaking and my heart was racing, but I took the words of advice from the doctor and went in with confidence knowing that I can do it. Turns out I could do it; I successfully assisted in crown prep for CERAC. A memorable story is from my first week at Dr. Wong’s: I was taking an alginate impression on my patient; the patient had a very sensitive gag reflex and ended up throwing up all over my hand.
24/7:  Which area of dental assisting do you prefer (chairside, admin, etc) and why?
Katie:  I have an experienced both chairside and administration and I prefer chairside; I like working one on one with the patient and dentist. I like the hands on portion of chairside and being able to assist the doctor and help make the patients feel more at ease while they are in the chair.
24/7:  What advice do you have to share with others looking to become a dental assistant?
Katie:  For those looking to become a dental assistant, make sure you find an RDA program that you feel fits you best. Take advantage of any learning opportunity and always strive to make yourself a better RDA so that you can provide the best patient care possible.
24/7:  Where do you think Dental Assisting as a career is heading in the next 10-20 years?
Katie:  In the next 10-20 years, the technology in the dental field will continue to grow, and I think that assistants will be doing more and more alongside the doctor. I think that assistants will be utilized more and more and the scope of practice will grow.
24/7:  If you could change anything about the dental assisting profession, what would it be?
Katie:  Honestly I am not sure what I would change about the dental assisting profession. I am still very new to the field and am still learning everyday.
24/7:  What are your goals for the future?
Katie:  I would like to eventually obtain my BA and teaching credential, so that when I feel I am ready to leave chairside, I can teach and share my passion for dental assisting.
24/7:  How did you find out about ADAA?  When did you join?
Katie:  I found out about the ADAA through my school program, spring of 2011.
24/7:  For you, what is the best part of being an ADAA member?
Katie:  Being part of an organization where I have leadership opportunities and access to continued education and networks.
24/7:  How do you think the ADAA can be more beneficial to students?
Katie:  Offer more student functions/events to inform students of the different ways to be involved in the dental field and with the ADAA.
24/7:  You recently won an award from the ADAA.  Tell us a little about what you did to be selected as a recipient?
Katie:  I recently won the ADAA Hu-Friedy Merit Scholar award and the Citrus College top 100 students Scholar Award. For these awards I maintained a 4.0gpa while in school, was president of my schools SADAA’s chapter, and was nominated by my faculty members.
Thank you Katie for taking time to interview with ADAA’s 24/7; we look forward to a great year with you as Student Trustee!

Katie Harstine can be emailed at katieharstine@gmail.com.  For more information on the ADAA, ADAA Student Chapters and the ADAA Student Trustee, please visit the Student section of the ADAA website (http://www.dentalassistant.org/Content/Details/ADAA-SADAA)





Valencia Hogan

Valencia Hogan was a dental assisting student at Vatterott College Omaha who was fatally shot on August 4, 2012. Valencia Hogan was standing outside some townhomes when she was shot in the head, neck and leg. She was rushed into surgery then remained in critical condition for a few days before the family made the difficult decision to take her off of life support. Police are still looking for the gunman and the family is hoping someone comes forward with information about the shooter.

Family members said Valencia Hogan lived for others. “She's a good girl with a heart of gold,” her mother said. “She doesn't deserve anything like this to happen to her.” Family and friends have said that Valencia has always put others first. Valencia has now given the ultimate gift to others as she will now live on through organ donation.

Valencia was studying dental assisting and was a few weeks from starting her externship and graduating from the Dental Assistant Program at Vatterott College Omaha, which is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Valencia was liked by all the students and faculty and was a pleasure to have in the program.

The dental assistant program at Vatterott has an active student ADAA Chapter at the college. Proudly, Valencia was the first Secretary of the student chapter. Through the VCSADAA, the chapter held the Valencia Hogan Silent Auction and Fundraiser on August 17th. The family and community were invited to raise funds to help with the funeral expenses for the family. We were happy to raise almost $2000 to assist the family.

The faculty also put a memory box together for Valencia’s family with Valencia’s study models, lab work, a sampling of her tests and competencies and her Radiology and Coronal Polish Certificates. In addition, the students and faculty signed a memory book where they were able to write their personal thoughts and memories about Valencia.

Valencia will be remembered in the dental program through a plaque with her picture which will be prominently displayed in the dental assistant program area. Valencia will always be remembered as a kind, caring, thoughtful person who could light up the room with her smile.




Brittany Ashenfelter, CDA, EFDA, LDH, AAS, BS, PHDH

Dentistry has been a huge factor in my life since I was a small child.  I have several family members that are in the dental field and dentistry was the topic of conversation at many family gatherings.  This struck a chord deep within and I knew that I found my career pathway.After attending  a dental assisting course at Lake Land College in Illinois,  I became an Expanded Functions Dental Assistant, a Certified Dental Assistant and Licensed Dental Hygienist in the State of Indiana.  Recently, I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health Dental Hygiene.

I worked for two dentists and both of my previous employers were very knowledgeable, hardworking and devoted to the profession of dentistry.  It was wonderful to work with them because they always supported my decision to further my education as well as for their staff.

As the current Program Chair of Dental Assisting for Kaplan College NW Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Indiana, I have a passion for dental assisting education and truly enjoy making a difference within my students’ lives.  It is an indescribable feeling to see success from your students and watch them develop into true professionals. Working with the students on a daily basis, as well as with my staff, is the best part of my job.  Being an educator is truly unlike any other position that I have held within the dental office because education feels more rewarding and keeps challenging my knowledge.  I am truly blessed to have a team of amazing dental assistants working for me in the dental assisting department.

Without an amazing support staff and team of educators my job would truly be impossible to tackle.Back in 2008, my colleagues introduced me to the ADAA, which has provided many excellent networking opportunities.  I met some fabulous people who have given my career guidance and direction.  I also love being able to speak to dental assistants from all over the United States on conflicts and issues within our profession.

I served as President of the Indianapolis Dental Assistants Society in 2010-2011, Education Chair of the Indiana Dental Assistants Association in 2010-2011 and I am currently President of Indiana Dental Assistants Association.My best memory as an ADAA member is attending my first annual session as a delegate for the State of Indiana.  I learned so much about the organization and its many wonderful members.  I felt proud to belong to an organization that cares about the overall wellbeing of its members and the profession of dental assisting.

My greatest accomplishment would be continuing my dental education.  An important lesson I’ve learned over the years is that you can never have enough education.  The dental field is always evolving and if you stop learning you are not as viable in the office or knowledgeable for the patients and the dental team.

My advice to potential dental assistants are get certified and/or licensed, continue your education, get involved with your professional association and treat your profession as a career and not a job.

I believe the role of the dental assisting will continue to evolve as one of the most important roles within the dental office.  I foresee each state delegating more duties to dental assistants, making us a more valuable part of the dental team.  I believe that many states, if not all states, will move to certification being a major part of the education process.

I plan to continue urging other dental assistants to become certified and/or licensed and work to convert dental assisting programs to an associate degree level.  I also want to continue to be a mentor for dental assisting students and professionals to increase their knowledge within the field of dentistry.

E-mail: tinsman1@yahoo.com 

Employer: Kaplan Higher Education- Kaplan College NW Indianapolis