What Training Does it Take to Become a Dental Assistant?

Dental assistants are important members of dental practices because they are responsible for both administrative and clinical duties.

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Job Duties

The job duties performed by dental assistants vary by employer as well as the state in which they live due to regulations. They can include:

Administrative Duties

  • Checking in patients
  • Scheduling and confirming appointments
  • Processing insurance claims
  • Answering the telephone
  • Ordering dental and office supplies

Clinical Duties

  • Assisting the dentist chairside during exams and procedures
  • Removing sutures
  • Sterilizing equipment and tools
  • Cleaning removable dental devices
  • Preparing compounds for making impressions and restorations
  • Teaching patients about proper oral hygiene

Dental Assistant Training

dental assistant trainingSome states allow residents to become a dental assistant as soon as they earn a high school diploma or GED. Mandatory on-the-job training would be provided by the employer, mainly through experienced dental assistants. Though, at times, the dentist will teach as well.

Other states require completion of a dental assisting program. The reason for the training is to teach students the necessary skills so they can have a successful dental assisting career. Programs last approximately nine months to two years depending on if students earn an associate degree, certificate, or diploma. They can be found at community colleges, dental schools, technical schools, and universities.

You are likely to take the courses described below, though your curriculum may slightly differ since courses vary from school to school.

Anatomy and Physiology – Gives students an overview of the anatomy of the human body.


Business Administration – Dental assistant students need to learn the proper business skills needed to work in a dental practice, and this course explains how to effectively deal with patients and suppliers, providing customer service, and scheduling appointments.

Clinical Chairside Assisting – Students gain knowledge of procedures and techniques needed for working side-by-side with the dentist during a patient’s exam or procedure.

Dental Materials – During this course, students learn dental assistant vocabulary and how to use dental materials and tools.

Embryology and Histology – Embryology deals with the development process of humans, and histology explains the microstructures of the human body and their functions.

First Aid and CPR – This course explains the basics of first aid and CPR so students will be prepared in the event an emergency occurs during patient care.

Head and Neck Anatomy – This is a basic dental assisting course that teaches students about the various parts of the head and neck.

Infection Control – Learn how to fight and prevent infection in patients by maintaining a sterile environment. The course also teaches how to treat infections with antibiotics.

Microbiology – This course centers on the microbes that cause tooth decay and other dental problems.

Oral Anatomy – Students learn about the anatomy of the mouth and teeth.

Oral Pathology – Focuses on the various diseases and afflictions that infect patients.

Pharmacology, Pain Control, and Therapeutics – Teaches about the different drugs and medications used in dentistry and how to properly administer them to patients.

Psychology and the Special Patient – This course gives students the knowledge on how to keep patients calm and relaxed during their dental appointment.

Radiology – Gives students the proper techniques to take and evaluate x-rays.

Specialties – This course allows students to discover the different specialties such as pediatric dentistry and orthodontics.

Aspects to Consider When Choosing a Program

  • Is it accredited by the Dental Commission on Accreditation?
  • Does it have access to modern facilities?
  • Is the faculty experienced?
  • Is there an externship opportunity?


Another important part of a dental assistant’s training is an externship. This takes place after all required dental assisting courses are completed. It is beneficial because it gives students experience working in an actual dental setting, and listing an externship on your resume can help you land a job sooner than if you do not participate one.


After you earn your associate degree, certificate, or diploma, you may need to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam depending on state guidelines. Even if your state does not require certification, it is a good idea to obtain it anyway because it usually leads to better job opportunities and higher wages.

Interested in becoming a dental assistant? Contact us to learn more about this rewarding career.