Dental Assistant Programs: Degrees, Certificates, and Courses

A dental assistant degree can help you take the next step in your career path, learn about dental assistant programs.
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Dental Assistant Career Facts

Dental Assistant Programs & Degree Options

A dental assistant is a valuable asset to any dental practice and the career is in high demand offering competitive salaries and opportunities for career advancement.

But before you can start a dental assistant program you need to determine the type of dental assistant degree you need to earn.

There are several educational routes to becoming a dental assistant. When choosing between dental assisting programs you can opt for a shorter 9-12 month certificate program or a longer 2-year associate degree program.

This page shares the various dental assistant programs and degree options you should consider when becoming a dental assistant.

1. Dental Assisting Certification

The quickest route takes about 9-12 months to complete a dental assisting certificate sometimes called a diploma. These dental assisting certificates are most often earned at community and career colleges. If your goal is to start working as soon as possible then the career college programs are generally slightly faster to complete.

For more details on getting your dental assistant certification and the different certificates available, we created this guide to becoming a certified dental assistant.

2. Dental Assisting Associates Degree

Getting an associates degree in dental assisting generally takes about 2 years. In addition to your dental curriculum you will also earn some general education. These programs are most often found through career and community colleges.

The good news about associates degrees is that you can use the credits towards a bachelors when you decided to advance your career. This opens to the door to additional opportunities and higher salaries.

Knowing these two routes to becoming a dental assistant, now you can determine which is best for your financial situation and schedule.

Plus it is great to know that dental assistants and dental technicians will have opportunities to advance their careers and become dental hygienists. Dental hygienists will require slightly more education and training but get paid more.

Dental Assistant Classes

You will learn a lot in your dental assisting classes including everything from “chairside assisting” meaning clinically assisting the dentist to general medical and office administration.

Accredited schools are guaranteed to give you all the required skills to become a dental hygienist and begin your career. Good programs will also include clinical practice providing hands-on experience working in a dental office to really prepare you for the workforce.

Dental technician classes will vary slightly by each program but the following subjects will always be covered:

  • Dental/Oral Anatomy
  • Dental Ceramics and Molds
  • Dentures and Dental Materials
  • Computer and Administrative Skills
  • Molding, Waxing, and Contouring

Dental assistant programs and dental hygienist programs will include more clinical education and experience to teach skills used in assisting the dentist directly.

Dental assistant courses will vary slightly by each program but the following subjects will always be covered:

  • Handling and sanitizing dental equipment
  • Dental office administration and management
  • Imaging and developing x-rays
  • Periodontal diseases
  • Dental and oral hygiene

Aside from these general courses that overlap in both dental hygienist and dental assistant programs the remaining curriculum would be different and focused on each specific role.

Some specific dental assistant classes are:

  • Dental pharmacology
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Dental Materials
  • Dental Administration
  • Chair-side Manner and Assisting
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Anatomy
  • Radiology
  • Dental Psychology
  • Clinical Procedures

Now you know the types of dental assisting degrees you can pursue and the types of dental assisting classes you need to take.

List of Accredited Dental Assisting School Programs

The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) of the American Dental Association (ADA) is the organization responsible for accrediting dental assisting programs.

Accreditation provides the following important standards:

  • Accessing federal financial aid
  • Assuring all required curriculum is covered
  • Assuring quality educational programs
  • Creating a credit transfer system between dental programs and schools
  • Increasing employer confidence

For the reasons above, it is important to attend an accredited dental assisting school. Doing so will provide financial aid opportunities, a high-quality education, and better job prospects after graduation.

You can click on the blue button that says “Find Schools” to compare accredited dental assisting programs in your area as well as available online dental assisting courses.

Search and compare every accredited dental assistant school in the Country here on our website. We maintain a complete directory of every CODA accredited dental assisting program in the United States. View dental assisting programs.

Dental Assistant Programs & Associate Degrees

You may be wondering about the differences between Dental Assistant Programs resulting in a certificate and programs resulting in associate degrees. You may wonder about how long a dental assistant program lasts, what are the pre-requisites, and which programs are accredited.

The rest of this article goes into depth on all of these frequently asked questions about dental assisting programs. Read on to discover which program is right for you.

How long is a dental assistant program?

The duration of a dental assistant program depends on the school and program. A certificate program is typically 9-12 months vs an associate degree program lasting 2 years.

For example, at Pittsburgh Career Institute, the dental assistant program is completed in 40 instructional weeks, or under ten months.

The state of licensure varies, but, following our example above, in Pennsylvania, you don’t need to be licensed. A dental assistant education is great preparation for a career in the medical industry.

Some dental assisting schools offer hybrid degree structures, which allow students to complete clinical components on campus, while still gaining hands-on experience. To become accredited, schools must receive approval from the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), a branch of the American Dental Association (ADA). The Commission on Dental Accreditation publishes a list of accredited dental assistant programs that you can compare in our directory, which you can refer to when searching for an accredited program. While a degree program will require more time, it will give you a foundation for higher education should you be interested in becoming a dental hygienist one day.

To become a certified dental assistant, you must first have an associate’s degree. Most programs last for about two years, though some programs can last for as little as nine months. You will have to take general education classes and dental assisting courses as well. In addition, many states require certification before hiring a dental assistant. There are also accelerated programs available for those who already have some work experience. However, you should research these programs carefully before committing to them.

What are prerequisites for dental assisting programs?

In the dental assisting field, the pre-requisites for entry are a number of things. First, you must have a high school diploma or GED. In addition, you must have the necessary work experience. If you have no work experience, you can find a dental assistant training program that meets your requirements. Dental assistants are vital team members in a dental practice, and their role is to provide quality oral care to a variety of patient populations. The training they receive will also help them to increase the efficiency of the practice, so this is an excellent way to get started.

Dental assistants are highly skilled workers. They must have good communication skills, a good attention to detail, and the ability to multitask. They should also possess professional values and a strong commitment to lifelong learning. They must also have the ability to communicate with patients and staff. Ultimately, they should be able to pass the Dental Assisting National Board Examination (DANB).

What is a dental assistant program externship?

If you are just starting a dental assisting program and are unsure of where to find an externship, look for a dental office where you can complete an internship. An externship will allow you to get real world experience in a dental office, where you can ask questions about the workflow, the culture of the office, and more. Externships are an important part of your education, so you should begin looking for them as early as possible.

An externship will give you real-world experience, so you should find a place where you can offer them a job. These positions typically don’t pay and you shouldn’t expect to be hired once you graduate. However, they can be a great way to attract and retain high-quality candidates for your practice. You should be aware of the benefits of hosting an externship, as well as the potential for mutually beneficial relationships.

Accredited Dental Assistant Programs

As mentioned previously, there are two basic types of dental assisting programs: certificate programs and associate degrees.

  • Certificate programs focus on basic information about the field of dental assisting and prepare students for entry-level positions. They can be completed in as little as one year.
  • Associate degrees, on the other hand, take two years to complete and combine dental assistant training with core college courses. An associate degree may be better suited for those who wish to expand their education to a higher level.

Online dental assistant programs are a flexible way to study and often accept students with an associate’s degree in a different field. Some require on-campus clinical experience, so check on those requirements before enrolling. However, online dental assisting programs typically take around 1-2 years. Similar to traditional campus programs, many online programs also require students to complete supervised internships in a dental clinic. To find an accredited dental assisting program, start your search on our website.

What skills do you learn in dental school?

If you have ever dreamed of becoming a dentist or an assistant, one question you may be wondering is, “What skills do you learn in dental school?”

In short, dental school requires you to develop strong oral and visual communication skills. Dental school also requires you to take a rigorous academic program educating you on oral health and dental concepts.

When studying to become a dental assistant, you learn a number of important skills. These include learning how to disinfect and sterilize dental instruments, how to properly clean teeth, how to take X-rays, and how to assist the dentist during procedures. You also learn how to keep accurate records and how to educate patients on proper oral hygiene.

The following are some of the primary skills you will learn during your studies in dental school:

  • Dental anatomy
  • Dental charting
  • Dental materials
  • Dental X-rays
  • Infection control
  • Dental office procedures
  • Patient communication
  • Clinical skills
  • Laboratory skills
In addition to the above skills, dental assistants will need to develop good judgement and strong manual dexterity.

Good judgment. Dentists are expected to use superior eye-hand coordination to perform tasks and prevent patient injury. Superior manual dexterity is also essential to the integrity of the profession and the safety of patients. The DAT tests this ability. Dental school admissions staff may also ask about it, so it is crucial to practice these skills as you prepare for the test. But remember, dental school is hard work and demands many skills outside of the classroom.

Manual dexterity. Some people have problems with manual dexterity. Dental schools should provide activities that build manual dexterity skills. They should also assess their ability and satisfaction level in performing dental work. And they should be open to criticism. This will help them develop better oral and mental health. If you have a problem with manual dexterity, you should be prepared to make adjustments. It is important that you do your part to improve your health in general.

How long does it take to become a dental assistant?

The quickest route to becoming a dental assistant would be in a 9-12 month certificate program.
The longer route would take about 2 years and would result in you getting an associate degree in dental assisting and completing a national exam to become a certified or registered dental assistant.

So, if you want to become a dental assistant, you can choose to enroll in an associate’s degree or certificate program. Certificate programs typically take 12 months to complete. Associate’s degree programs generally take 2 years to complete.

Some dental assistant programs include clinical practicums and externships. These hands-on training opportunities are a great way to get your foot in the door. Depending on your preferences and qualifications, you can also complete your education online.

As a dental assistant, you must be knowledgeable about the different materials used in procedures. For example, you should know the different materials used in dental procedures and which ones are suitable for specific types of care.

To become a dental assistant, you can enroll in an accredited online program offered by many career schools, technical colleges, and community colleges. Some dental assistant diploma programs offer job placement assistance, which can help reduce the stress of the job search and help you present yourself well to employers.

What is the DANB CDA exam and how much is it?

Before you start studying for the DANB CDA exam, you should know how long it will last and how much it will cost.

You will spend 105 minutes on it and pay $450 to take it. The questions in the exam will test your knowledge of underlying diseases, the treatment rooms and procedures, and emergency situations. The eligibility requirements and the fee are listed on the DANB website.

You must pass the DANB CDA exam in order to obtain your certificate. If you fail any component, you must reapply. This can be done immediately, provided you meet the DANB’s retest policy. You will have to submit documentation as well as pay the retest fee. Depending on the regulations in your state, you may need to take additional coursework.

The cost of the CDA exam for dental assistants is $450.

Is certification required for dental assistants?

There are two paths to becoming a certified dental assistant. While you can learn on the job, certificate programs are usually more beneficial. They typically integrate Board-required courses such as infection control and radiation safety, as well as basic CPR. This course must be taught by an instructor approved by the American Heart Association or Red Cross. In addition, certificate programs are more cost-effective and allow you to get started sooner. However, if you have the time and inclination, you can opt for an associate degree program.

To become a certified dental assistant, you must first complete your education and then pass a national test to become certified. Dental assistants must be at least 18 years old and have attained a high school diploma. They must also complete continuing education courses to stay current on the latest trends in the dental field.

The roles and responsibilities of dental assistants will vary by state. For example, in Texas, only certified dental assistants are allowed to perform advanced tasks such as performing lab procedures. Moreover, you must have a high school diploma to become certified and complete a CPR class before you can start working.

If you are interested in becoming a dental assistant then click on the blue “Find Schools” button to find the best dental assisting program for you.

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