Table of Contents
Welcome to the ultimate resource for future dental assistants. DentalAssistantEDU.org is a comprehensive guide for aspiring students looking to make informed career decisions. We provide state-by-state information on local requirements for dental assistants and hygienists, metropolitan district salaries, local representatives of professional associations, and complete lists of certifications and degree programs available in each region.
Discover the top online and local dental assistant schools and find all the key information you need to make the right decision about your future career.
How Do I Find Dental Assistant Programs Near Me?
Consult our state-by-state guides for detailed information on schools, state requirements, employment opportunities, salaries, and more:
Calling the Dental Hygienists of Tomorrow
Looking for a career in Dental Hygiene? We now offer specific information for the dental hygienists of tomorrow. Get details about state requirements, salaries, employment prospects, and complete lists of schools here.
How to Become a Dental Assistant
Dental assistants are valuable members of a dental team, performing a variety of technical, interpersonal, and administrative tasks. A career in this field is often diverse and flexible, with excellent job prospects. Check out our salary guide.
Training and Certification
Dental assisting programs are usually certificate-level study courses that take between nine and eleven months to complete. Some locations offer accelerated programs that can be completed in an even shorter time, while others have online or part-time educational programs to accommodate as many students as possible. There are approximately 270 programs nationwide accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), and you can find them all on this site.
Students who complete a CODA-accredited program are eligible to take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Individuals who completed non-accredited training programs or learned dental assisting through practical on-the-job training must have two years of full-time experience before being eligible to take the CDA exam.
Not all states require graduation from an accredited program or national certification to be able to work, although some of the routine duties performed by dental assistants may not be available to them without these qualifications. However, many states require these requirements to be met, and others require a specific state registration or license before a person can work in that state.
There are four regulated tasks that some dental assistants perform if individual state regulations allow. These tasks are coronal polishing (removal of soft deposits on teeth), sealant application (painting a thin plastic substance on teeth to help prevent cavities), fluoride application, and topical anesthesia application (numbing areas for surgical procedures).
What Will I Learn in a Dental Assisting Program?
You can expect classroom instruction on oral anatomy, dental materials, digital dental radiography and X-ray techniques, oral hygiene, clinical procedures and treatments, including emergency procedures, infection control and prevention, how to take a patient’s medical history, HIPAA guidelines for dental clinical procedures, as well as administrative tasks in a dental office. Some schools may offer external internships as part of the educational process, so students can receive instruction and work alongside experienced staff.
How Much Does Dental Assistant School Cost?
Diploma programs are usually shorter, consisting of only courses and are often taken at vocational colleges or community colleges. Tuition costs can range from $3,000 to $13,000. The cost of certification exams may or may not be included in the program cost. Associate degrees are typically obtained at a private two-year university or community college. These programs can take up to two years to complete. Tuition costs for such programs will typically be between $6,000 and $15,000. Depending on your state, a public community college may be the most affordable option. You may also be eligible for financial aid.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Dental Assistant?
Some training programs can last as little as 10 weeks, or you can attend a university program and graduate with an associate degree after approximately two years. Depending on the regulations of the state where you want to work, you may need to pass a licensing or certification exam. You may also need to complete hands-on training under the supervision of a dentist, experienced dental assistant, or office manager.
Can I Study Online?
Yes, you can. While you’ll want to gain hands-on experience, there are a variety of online study options available to equip you with the necessary knowledge for the job. Some, like the one offered by Penn Foster, provide support in obtaining an external internship. You can also use the search box at the top of this page to find local universities offering online training.
What Do Dental Assistants Do?
Dental assistants are valuable team members in a variety of private dental clinics, including individual dental practices, group dental practices, and specialized clinics such as orthodontics or pediatric dentistry. These professionals can also assist dentists in settings such as hospital rooms or nursing homes.
Their skills allow them to play a significant role in preventing oral health problems. They may work in places that do not offer the full range of dental clinic treatments, such as schools or community health clinics. In these settings, they often focus on preventive services, such as teaching about proper oral health care or providing preventive materials like fluoride.
The field of dental assisting covers a wide range of services, and different jobs can vary widely in the functions that are required. Some dental assisting roles involve a significant amount of interpersonal and office work, including supply management, appointment scheduling, gathering patient histories, and instructing patients on post-procedure oral care.
Dental assisting can also involve a variety of technical responsibilities, including instrument preparation and sterilization, developing infection control protocols, taking and developing X-rays, and taking dental impressions for models.
The variety of jobs that dental assisting offers is one of the features that attract many young professionals to this career. The position also frequently offers flexible schedules and a significant amount of part-time work (approximately one in three worked part-time in 2019).
Those looking to go beyond clinical practice can also pursue a variety of other opportunities.
Some use their expertise to process dental insurance claims for insurance companies, manage patient billing and accounting, or become sales representatives for corporations selling dental products or treatments.
Many experienced workers also seek jobs in education. Positions are available in clinical settings, where experienced assistants assist new students in learning clinical procedures. Some also take teaching positions in the classroom at dental schools, technical or vocational schools, community colleges, or universities offering dental assisting programs.
Independent teaching positions often require a significant amount of clinical experience and may also require additional education in the form of an associate degree or bachelor’s degree.
The field of dental assisting currently provides a very strong job outlook. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment in the field will grow by 11 percent between 2018 and 2028. This is much higher than the projected job growth rate for all occupations, which is 11 percent, and similar to growth within healthcare professions.
According to the BLS, this growth will be driven by two main factors. First, research continues to show a connection between good oral health and overall good physical health, increasing the demand for dental services. Additionally, federal legislation to increase the number of people with medical and dental insurance is expected to increase the need for dental services. As dentists, and sometimes dental hygienists, accept more patients to meet this demand, the need for dental assistants to perform office administration tasks, equipment preparation, and patient communication will increase.
How Much Do Dental Assistants Earn?
The average annual salary for dental assistants in 2020 was very close to the average annual salary for all occupations: $41,180 compared to $41,950. That’s equivalent to $19.80 per hour. The top 10 percent of dental assistants earned over $58,390, as much as some dental hygienists. Dental assistants in the lowest 10 percent income level (entry-level positions) earned less than $28,940. Payment conditions vary by area.
While those with more experience are likely to earn more money than those with less, experience is not the only variable when it comes to dental assistants’ annual salary. Since dental assisting duties can vary, salaries will also vary depending on the services required by individual employers. Those primarily performing office management and patient contact duties are likely to earn less than dental assistants whose jobs also include a significant amount of technical tasks. States that allow dental assistants to perform regulated tasks, such as coronal polishing or sealant application, generally offer higher earning potential than states that restrict these activities to dentists or hygienists.
[E-E-A-T]: Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness, Experience
[YMYL]: Your Money or Your Life