How long it takes to become a dental assistant varies from state to state. In some states, you can be a dental assistant as soon as you’re hired for the job. In other states, you may need to do a 1 year dental assisting program and get additional certification.
Check the state by state requirements to find the education and certification requirements in your state.
The state by state requirements will cover the education, certification, and experience requirements to practice dental assisting in each state. Use this resource and cross reference with information on the duration of dental assisting courses and programs in your area to determine roughly how long it will take you to become a dental assistant.
The Process Of Becoming A Dental Assistant
In some states you may be able to practice dental assisting no formal training requirements. In other states, private, non-accredited vocational training is sufficient. These programs typically take anywhere from three to six months to complete. The cost of the program usually varies from $2,000 to $5,000.
In some cases you may also be able to work as a dental assistant after receiving sufficient in-office training. If you take either of these routes you will be deemed as a qualified dental assistant (QDA) upon completion of the requirements.
DANB Certification – Become A Certified Dental Assistant
Private vocational training is not an option in every state so it should only be considered if it is a possibility where you live. In many states it is required that you receive DANB certification to legally practice as a dental assistant and to perform certain other expanded duties. DANB (Dental Assisting National Board) certification is recognized or required in 38 states and the District of Columbia.
If DANB certification is required in your state you will need to complete the appropriate DANB certification exam or exams to be qualified to practice dental assisting in your area. Wherever recognized it is recommended that you take the steps to become DANB certified even if not required. According to the 2010 Salary Survey performed by the DANB, a DANB certified dental assistant will make an average of $2.04 an hour more than a non-certified dental assistant.
Total Duration of All Requirements to Become a Certified Dental Assistant
You can review the total duration of all requirements to become a certified dental assistant (CDA) and calculate the particular requirements that apply to you. This will give you a good idea on how long it will take to become a CDA.
If you are looking to practice dental assisting without DANB certification and a degree is not required in your state then the in-office training of 10 to 12 weeks will be the main requirement. See the state by state dental assistant certification & training requirements for more details.
Below is a general overview of the process taken in most states to become a CDA. Remember, not all states require a CDA certification to become a dental assistant.
- Completion of high school or grade 12 equivalency
- Completion of pre-requisite courses (may require upgrading)
- Completion of an accredited dental assisting program (typically 1 or 2 years)
- Completion of a DANB-accepted Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification
- Mail in DANB CDA exam application form (3-4 weeks processing time)
- Schedule and take DANB exam (60 day window)
- Wait for DANB exam results in mail (3-4 weeks after writing)
There are other possible requirements for an aspiring dental assistant. The additional requirements vary depending on the path taken to obtain DANB certification and the functions that the CDA will practice.
An alternate pathway will allow you to write the DANB exam without continuing education if you have 3,500 hours or more experience working as a dental assistant. This experience must have been obtained within the last two to four years and needs to be validated by the licensed dentist that you worked under.
Aside from alternative requirements for qualifying to apply for the DANB CDA exam you may also have different qualifying requirements to write other DANB exams. Certain licensing may be required for expanded functions (such as coronal polishing and x-rays) so you will have to meet the requirements to take the exams and complete them to practice these functions.
On top of the requirements for becoming certified you will also want to look into the requirements for maintaining certification. These requirements can be viewed on the DANB exam application form.