Something to Smile About: A Paid Dental Assistant Training Program

Dec. 8, 2020

UR Medicine’s Eastman Institute for Oral Health this week is announcing an innovative new program, designed to provide employment and paid training opportunities while helping treat the area’s increased number of dental patients.

The pandemic has created a critical need for dental assistants locally and nationally because many current employees need to be home with their school-age children, among other reasons. In addition, the many unemployed workers in hospitality, sales and service industries don’t have the ability or resources to obtain training in a different field.

Lead Dental Assistant Elena Velo (right) discusses the schedule with Mariya Melikzade, also a dental assistant in General Dentistry.

“This new Dental Assistant Training Program solves that problem, because those accepted into the program will receive full-time pay and benefits while getting on-the-job training,” said Holly Barone, Eastman’s Chief Operations Officer. “It’s a win-win for the Rochester community.”

Eastman Institute for Oral Health was one of the few in the region to stay open during the pandemic. But since routine and elective procedures re-opened, staff shortages coupled with new challenges have resulted in higher demand for emergency and routine dental treatment, thus limiting the ability to treat non-emergency patients in a timely fashion.  

The new, one-year training program begins January 19, when participants will have two hours of classroom learning, followed by observation and hands-on training each day. Upon completion, they can then work independently as a chairside assistant, help the dentist provide patient care, work in the lab, take x-rays, sterilize equipment and many other responsibilities.    

Dental Assistant with Dentist treating a patient
Dental assistants enjoy a wide range of responsibilities including patient care.

“Because people are so busy, we purposely designed the program to be strictly on-the-job training,” added Barone. “No homework, no tests and no prior dental or health experience necessary. The goal is to make it convenient to learn valuable new skills while serving our community.”

One of the first to enroll, Penelope Perez, 21, recently moved to Rochester from Texas and is excited about working in healthcare and dentistry. “Oral hygiene is very important to your overall health, and I feel like if I can help people stay healthy, then I will feel good about myself,” she said.

The training will be conducted in Eastman Dental’s General Dentistry Department at 625 Elmwood Ave, near Strong Memorial Hospital. For more information and an application, visit