Dental Assistant Graduate Polishes Portfolio

Lexi Pavlis pursues career as dental hygienist.

Lexi Pavlis

Lexi Pavlis

Born in Allentown, Penn., Lexi Pavlis, 22, settled in Rosemount with her family in 1987 at the age of two. After graduating from Rosemount High School, Pavlis enrolled in general education classes at Normandale Community College.

“I was initially interested in taking dental hygiene at Normandale,” Pavlis said, “but the program had a waiting list. Because I wanted to get started on my career in the dental field, I enrolled in the Dental Assistant program at Dakota County Technical College. That was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.”

Pavlis excelled academically and graduated in 2007 with a 4.0 GPA and a dental assistant A.A.S. degree. She credits much of her success to her instructors, Diana Sullivan and Jaime Pieper.

“I can’t even tell you how good Diana and Jaime are,” Pavlis said. “They are really there for you and are prepared to answer any question that comes up—day or night.”

Back in 1994, Sullivan was hired to develop the curriculum and design the facilities for the Dental Assistant program at DCTC. Today, she serves as program director and specializes in teaching radiology, expanded functions, dental materials, practice management and dental science courses.

“Lexi is definitely a team player,” said Sullivan. “She’s dedicated to the dental profession, and stands out as a highly motivated individual. Graduates of our program find jobs with excellent pay and are more than ready for advancement to dental hygiene school.”

Sullivan added that graduates of the fast-paced Dental Assistant program are fully equipped to pass the National Certification Exam and the State Registration Exam.
Graduates garner professional experience in dental office protocol through externships at area dental practices.

Pavlis did her externship at Saluté Dental , a family and cosmetic dental practice in Woodbury, Minn. Recognizing her superb training, positive attitude and keen work ethic, the dentists and staff at Saluté offered her a job at the conclusion of her externship.

“As a dental assistant, I work with the dentist during the day,” Pavlis explained. “Once I become a dental hygienist, I’ll be working on my own. Dental hygienists clean teeth and check for symptoms of oral disease. I’ll also counsel patients on proper oral hygiene as well as take and develop X-rays.”

Today, Pavlis is a full-time student pursuing a degree in dental hygiene. She continues to maintain a 4.0 GPA and will graduate in 2009. When she’s not doing homework, she plays pop music numbers on the piano, something she’s done for more than a dozen years. Her long-term goals revolve around dental sales or even teaching.

“When I was in high school, I really considered teaching as a career,” she said. “I think that I would be a good teacher.”

Pavlis looks back on her time in the Dental Assistant program as exceptionally rewarding. “Getting my degree from DCTC was the best thing I could have done,” she said. “I already knew so much by the time I became a dental hygiene student. I would absolutely recommend the program to anyone interested in a career in the dental field.”

Accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, the Dental Assistant program prepares students for employment in dentistry. Through the study of ways to control and prevent dental disease, students learn how to teach patients preventive care. Training covers dental X-rays, chair-side skills and other expanded functions delegated by the State Board of Dentistry.

According to, the median annual salary is nearly $32,000 for dental assistants in the United States. Top earners make close to $40,000 a year.

ISEEK, Minnesota’s gateway to education and employment, notes that dental assistants in the state make on average $18.62 an hour with the top percentile topping $23.50 an hour.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job prospects are excellent for dental assistants in the U.S., which translates as more job openings than job seekers. Employment is projected to grow almost 30 percent through 2016, which is much faster than the national average.