Dental assistant program progresses amid staff shortage

IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WLUC) – The John Fornetti Dental Center in Iron Mountain is just a UP dental practice looking to hire qualified staff. Dental hygiene is a career field that is experiencing a significant staff shortage.

“When the pandemic started, 8.4% of all hygienists in the country decided not to return to work. Certainly, some of them have returned to work. There are still about six percent of hygienists who haven’t, ”said John Fornetti, owner of John Fornetti Dental Center.

The office has been in a dental assistant program with Bay College West Campus for two months, and students have started running looking to fill staff shortages due to the pandemic.

“In the state of Michigan, you must be certified to do dental x-rays. So we do a lot of dental x-rays so they can get their certifications so they can have dental x-rays when they go to another dental office, ”said Paula Wender, licensed dental assistant.

This semester three students are enrolled, and they travel from as far as Marquette and Manistique to learn. Thursday evenings are conferences and Saturday mornings are clinics at the dental center.

“I teach the lecture part before the clinical part, and it covers a lot of what a dental assistant will do in the office,” said Meghan Olson, registered dental hygienist.

This is the second semester of the program and the office says this assistantship program is the only one at UP. This program will also help other offices hire workers.

“There will always be a need for dental assistants, and I see that continuing to grow,” Wender said.

Fornetti says he hopes to continue the program in the coming semesters.

Copyright 2021 WLUC. All rights reserved.

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