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Dental assistant program opening in Wilson

NC Dental U is accepting applications for its 13-week dental assistant program in Wilson. Christopher Long | Times

NC Dental U is launching a 13-week program in Wilson to bring dental assistants to the community.

Nicole Liles is an NC Dental U graduate and the program’s assistant director of education. She said Wilson’s winter semester will test-launch the school’s new self-paced curriculum. 

“We’re a proponent of propelling students into professional development,” Liles said. “We work very closely with them because dental is a whole other dog. It’s a learning curve.”

In-person meetings and clinicals will be held from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays beginning Sept. 23 and ending Dec. 16.

Liles said the application process is simple. She said anyone 18 and older can apply on a first-come, first-served basis. The full tuition is $3,695, including all textbooks, scrubs and equipment, with $200 due as a deposit. She said the documentation can be done in an hour. Applicants must supply a transcript and immunization records.

“It’s an excellent field with different career paths and specialties,” Liles said. “A lot of students start with us and then they either go back to school for hygiene or I have some that are in dental school right now. There’s so many things they can do upon completion with this. Some people are like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to work in the mouth,’ and you don’t have to. There are different options.”

Liles said she’s excited for program candidates to become a resource for dental practices in the area. 

“We wanted students to have the opportunity to seek employment,” Liles said. “It’s so rewarding for us because a lot of students, they’re the first to graduate anything from their family.”

NC Dental U holds clinicals at the Dental Care Center, 3001 Raleigh Road Parkway W. The program is licensed through the N.C. State Board of Community Colleges but is unaccredited.

“Students don’t come to us to earn credits,” Liles said. “They come to us to earn certificates that make them employable at a dental office. We’re a trade school for dental assisting. You can go to a community college program, but it is extremely competitive. We’re an alternative path to allow them to enter the workforce sooner, work their experience, get paid and further their career versus going to school for that time and landing in the same place credential-wise two years later.”

North Carolina doesn’t certify workers employed as dental assistants. Employers are responsible for verifying assistants’ qualifications, according to the N.C. State Board of Dental Examiners. 

Ethan Palomo is the director of NC Dental U Wilson. He said he recently took the course to see what it’s like from a student’s perspective. Gaining hands-on experience is an important part of dental assistant training, he said. 

“Essentially, the practice for the radiology was as real as it gets without practicing on an actual person,” Palomo said. “You’re getting up in there, you’re taking X-rays, working on a computer and looking at it.”

Palomo said the self-paced curriculum helped his learning.

“It’s paced very well,” Palomo said. “You’re not rushing through anything. We take a lot of time on certain things like radiology.”

Throughout the course, dental assistant candidates will learn about radiology, tools, mixing and taking dental impressions, setting up rubber dams and how to set up X-rays.

For more information about the program or to register, visit