What College Courses Are Needed To Become A Dental Assistant?

Dental Assistant Courses

If you are considering a career as a Dental Assistant, you have chosen well, as the outlook for this profession is bright. There are a few different ways to become a dental assistant, and the variations depend on which state you live in. However, there are some required dental assistant courses that must be completed, no matter which state you call home.

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Some states allow on-the-job training and do not require any certification or graduation from a formal training program. That said, regardless of your state’s particular requirements – or lack thereof – high school students who wish to become dental assistants can begin their career path by taking science classes such as anatomy and biology.

The employment outlook for dental assistants is extremely good. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the dental assistant field is expected to grow 25% by 2022, which is faster than the average career.

dental assistant coursesDental assistants can find employment in group, single dentist, or specialty dental practices, as well as in hospitals, public health clinics and dental school clinics. According to the BLS, dental assistants salaries averaged more than $35,000 per year as of May 2013. Dental assistants who made the most were employed at insurance companies or specialty hospitals.

What A Dental Assistant Does

Just as requirements to become a dental assistant vary from state to state, their duties also vary by geographical location.

Generally, dental assistants process X-rays, assist dentists with patients, sterilize equipment, manage the office and process billing services for patients. Some states allow dental assistants to perform routine procedures, such as tooth polishing and the applications of sealants, fluorides and topical anesthetics.

The best dental assistants are detail-oriented, have strong technical abilities and possess excellent interpersonal skills for interacting with patients. States requiring dental assistant education ensure training in these areas.


Training and Degree Programs

Some states require dental assistants to complete formal training. That education is gained through academic programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes, universities or dental schools. Graduates of these programs are typically awarded certificates.

Although the majority of academic dental assisting programs take nine to eleven months to complete, some schools offer accelerated programs, part-time education or training via distance education.

Some states require dental assistants to complete an accredited training program, which typically leads to a certificate or a diploma. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) of the American Dental Association is responsible for accrediting dental assisting programs. As of July 2013, the American Dental Association lists around 300 accredited dental assisting programs in the United States.

In addition, there are Associate degree programs, which take approximately two years to complete and result in a college degree.

Typical Dental Assistant Coursework

Whether the training leads to certification or a degree, most programs are composed of a mixture of classroom study, hands-on laboratory experience and clinical work.

Course topics include:

  • Dental materials
  • Infection control
  • Radiology
  • Dental office administration (book-keeping and insurance billing)
  • Oral examination and
  • Biodental science.

Dental Assisting Clinical Work

Students also receive hands-on dental assisting experience under direct supervision. To graduate, students must complete a specified number of hours of clinical experience through working at local clinics or dental offices.


Dental assistants can become nationally certified by passing the Dental Assisting National Board’s (DANB)Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination.

38 states and the District of Columbia recognize or require the exam as of 2014 (www.danb.org). To be eligible to take the CDA exam, applicants must hold a current CPR certification and meet one of the following qualifications:

  • have graduated from an accredited dental assisting/dental hygiene program,
  • have a high school diploma, or equivalent, and a minimum of 3,500 hours of approved work experience, OR
  • have previously held DANB CDA status, or have graduated from an accredited DDS or DMD program, or graduated from a dental degree program abroad.

Simply contact us if you would like to know more about career opportunities for Dental Assistants.