CENTRAL — Some Central High School students are receiving a head start on their prospective careers in dentistry thanks to a new dental assistant program that is being offered by the school to juniors and seniors.

“This class offering is another advance in our effort to offer our students greater opportunities to be job-ready upon graduation or to be better prepared and informed on pursuing a post-secondary degree or professional certification,” Superintendent Jason Fountain said.

Central librarian and dental assisting instructor Leslie Smith works with the students to learn basic dental terminology, as well as different dental procedures and techniques, a news release said. She said students who complete the course are certified to take dental X-rays and they have a Red Cross certification in CPR.

“This class offers our students a great introduction to a medical career and what can be expected in dentistry in particular,” Smith said. “It’s certainly giving our students a head start on a possible career, and offering clarity on what to expect if they want to pursue advanced training and education in this field.”

Smith noted that students who complete the course will be eligible to take the certification exam offered by the Dental Assisting National Board. The students can also opt to take an exam that’s offered through the American Dental Association, called the Expanded Duty Dental Assistant. Students who complete this exam qualify for higher pay as a dental assistant, she said.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment of dental assistants will grow 19 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than the average occupational growth.