Dental assisting students learn state of the art technique with hands on labs

Published by Molly Kay on

Four replicate models of human jaws are on a white table. Inside one of the replicas is a blue dental mold.
Dental students wait for their impressions to harden during their temporary crown placement lab. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

The UCC dental lab is so visibly similar to a local dentist’s that one of the few differences is the wall of lockers in the waiting room, available for students to use while they preform x-rays, teeth cleanings and practice making temporary crowns.

Two dental students stand on either side of person who is laying down. The students are wearing medical shirts and mouth coverings. They are in the process of cleaning teeth.
Izabella Rodriguez and Tiffany Smith conduct a tooth cleaning on Bonnie Beckham a fellow dental student as part of the required lab. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

The lab, used for the dental assisting program, is run by Tamara Loosli who has been at UCC since 1998. She became the director of dental assisting in 2015 when the program was officially accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. After an accreditation renewal visit in December of 2023, the program under her leadership was given zero recommendations for improvement: “we passed with flying colors; it doesn’t happen very often so were pretty happy about that,” Loosli says. CODA is a national accreditor which accredits all dental, hygiene and assisting schools.

Students who graduate through UCCs dental assisting program can get their required certifications such as Expanded Functions Dental Assistant, Expanded Functions Orthodontic Assistant, and take the Certified Dental Assistant exam to begin work in multiple dental-related careers. “A lot of our students will decide to go onto hygiene, others love assisting, and some choose to go into other fields of dentistry,” Loosli says.

Three students stand in a semi-circle watching as the person in the center cleans out a human jaw replica.  In front of them is a small container of dental supplies. They are standing in a dental office. There is a cabinet of books behind them.
Dental assisting students Kahlee Haas, Abigal Bielman, and Sierra Paroz practice making temporary crowns using the same equipment found in dental offices.
Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

Students in the CDA program evenly split their time between lecture and lab time. “We will talk about procedures in lecture and come in here and practice in the lab,” Loosli states. Students also complete 300 hours in local dentist offices in the community, such as the Alanson M. Randol DDS clinic, Harvard Dental Group with Dr. Brannick Adams and Current Orthodontics with Dr. Jon Petersen. “We have some great community partners who are willing to help us,” Loosli says.

The dental assisting program offers a one-year certificate with students completing 17 to 18 credits per term. In spring term, nine of the credits are completed in dental offices around town. “Students have practice with state-of-the-art equipment and all the latest materials so when they go to their dental office, they are comfortable,” Loosli says. The dental assisting students also move through the program with a cohort of the same students and instructors which creates a sense of unity. “You’re together with the same students and teachers for the entire year, so there is a sense of family. We do potlucks and celebrate birthdays; we have matching sweatshirts,” Loosli says.

A solitary tooth is on a dark blue rectangle. It is placed on the right side.  Information of the dental clinic days and hours are listed.

The dental assisting program strives to give back to the student population, by hosting free clinics which provide basic dental care. The free clinic opportunity, which started in 2019, will host two sessions, sponsored by Aviva, April 30 and May 14 this year. The clinic is offered to UCC students who may not have the resources or time to receive dental care off campus. “Any student is welcome, and we really want to fill those clinics up and help as many people as we can. We want to serve the student population.” Loosli says.

To schedule an appointment for the student clinic, contact Tamara Loosli at

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