How To Become A Dental Assistant

Dental assistants, often confused with dental hygienists, do not perform oral procedures such as removing the tartar. But as a supporter of dentists, dental assistants perform a wide range of tasks such as preparation and assistance for treatment, reception, and paperwork.

Since it is a profession that makes it easy to adjust the working hours, many people are choosing this profession as a career. If you are interested in choosing a dental assistant career like them, you may ask how to become a dental assistant?

You do not have to go through any formal certification process to become a dental assistant. All you need is a high school education to get an entry-level dental assistant position and receive on-the-job training. 

However, to become a Certified Dental Assistant, you must complete a program approved by your state Department of Education or take an alternative course equivalent to the Dental Assistant Education Program.

In this article, you will find a lot more information on how to start your career as a Dental Assistant.

How To Become A Dental Assistant: Qualification And Certification You Need

No formal training is required to start entry-level work as a dental assistant. You can take self-training by working in this field. To be an entry-level dental assistant, you need to have some good knowledge about dental health and its tools.

However, to become a certified dental assistant, you must meet a number of state-specific requirements. These requirements may include a high school diploma, dental assistant degree, work experience, state certificate, or license. 

What Is a Dental Assistant?

A dental assistant (DA) is a skilled healthcare worker who assists a dentist to take care of the teeth of patients in different clinical settings. He is an important member of a dental team. 

A dental assistant assists with a variety of health care activities, from taking dental X-rays and caring for patients to assisting with file records and appointment schedules, and many more. 

Dental assistants are to wear scrubs or other protective clothing when working in the office. They also wear gloves, surgical masks, and other safety items to protect themselves during dental operations or procedures.

What Are The Qualifications Required To Become A Dental Assistant?

In some cases, a job as a dental assistant requires graduation from a recognized program and a certificate of passing an exam. But in most cases, no formal educational qualification is required. In this case, dental assistants learn how to do their job by working under a dentist.

Here are the qualifications you may need to become a dental assistant:

  • A high school diploma
  • Dental assistant program
  • CPR certification
  • Certificate and license requirements

All of the above qualifications may not be required at the beginning of a dental assistant job. However, These qualifications will play an important role in advancing your dental assistant career.

How Many Years Does It Take To Become A Dental Assistant?

There is no fixed period of time for becoming a Dental Assistant. If you want, you can join as a dental assistant immediately or after a short training. 

But some states require qualifications and degrees to become a dental assistant. Therefore, most dental assistants complete a degree or course in this field before being hired as a dental assistant.

It can take one month to four years to complete a dental assistant degree or course. It depends on what course you are going to take and where you want to take the course.

General dental assistant training usually takes 6 to 12 months, depending on whether you have a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree. The Vocational Dental Assistance program can usually be completed within a year, while the Community College Dental Assistance course takes two years. 

A high school diploma takes four years to complete, including three additional months to complete a general educational development (GED) certificate.

How To Become A Certified Dental Assistant?

Certified dental assistants are important members of a dental team. Without these knowledgeable professionals, dentists will not be able to do the work they need.

In the United States, you can obtain a Dental Assistance Certification through the National Board of Dental Assistance (DANB).

Currently, almost every state requires a National Board of Dental Assistants certification to become a Certified Dental Assistant. You will need the following documents to obtain the National Board of Dental Assistant certification.

  • High school diploma
  • Graduation certificate from a dental assisting program
  • CPR certification from a DANB-certified provider
  • Application for the DANB Certified Dental Assistant exam
  • Proof of passing the DANB Certified Dental Assistant Exam
  • Meet the requirements of board work experience

What Skills Do You Need To Become A Dental Assistant?

Dental assistants work closely with dentists and assist them in treating patients. In addition to assisting dentists, dental assistants perform many office tasks such as taking X-rays, maintaining schedules, and educating patients about proper oral care, and hygiene.

In order to do the tasks of a dental assistant, you have to be skilled in this work. The following skills can help you to become a successful dental assistant.

  • Good communication skills
  • Strong customer service skills
  • organizational skills
  • Listening skills
  • Computer skills
  • Basic knowledge of dental medicine
  • Multitasking ability
  • Professionalism

Dental Assistant Courses And Degrees

Most dental assistants complete a certification or diploma program before starting their careers. Like them, if you want, you can complete a degree or course and join this work.

There are several types of courses and programs available for Dental assistants. You can take a diploma in this subject or get an associate’s degree from a well-known college or an institution.

To make sure you choose the right course for you, always check the requirements of your state before you start a dental assistant program.

What Degree Do You Need To Become A Dental Assistant?

Some states in the United States require a recognized program to become a dental assistant. It can be a high school diploma or an associate degree or an online course certificate.

After obtaining a Dental Assistant degree, you need to complete a  National Board of Dental Assistance  (DANB)  Certification. You can get DANB certifications by passing the exam. Some DANB certificates may need to be renewed after a few years. 

Which Colleges Offer Degrees In Dental Assistant?

In the United States, Numerous vocational and technical colleges, career schools, and community colleges offer dental assistant programs. Many institutions are now offering online dental assistant degrees for students. You can choose according to your choice and get a degree in one of these places.

You can also get certification from the National Board of Dental Assistance through a specific process. The National Board of Dental Assistance offers the following national certification:

  • National Entry Level Dental Assistant
  • Certified Dental Assistant
  • Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant 
  • Certified Orthodontic Assistant 
  • Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant

What Classes Or Lessons Are Included In The Dental Assistant Course?

The Dental Assistant course covers everything you need to know about the patient’s gums, teeth, jaw, and the inside of the mouth. You will also learn about all the dental equipment needed for the different procedures performed by dentists.

Here are some common classes that are included in most of the dental assistant courses.

  • Dental radiology
  • Infection control
  • Office management
  • Preventive dentistry
  • Dental terminology
  • Health and Nutrition Science

There are some extended functions such as sealant placement, coronal polishing, and creating a temporary crown that may be included in some dental assistant programs.

Are Dental Assistant Courses Available Online?

There are several online courses available on Dental Assistant. Many High schools, vocational colleges, and other institutions offer online diploma courses in dental assistants. Dental assistants’ online programs only complete the study of coursework.

But to become a dental assistant, you need to take personal training in the lab and training in external settings that you may not find in online courses.

How Much Does It Cost To Be A Dental Assistant?

Typically, the cost of a dental assistant program depends on whether the program offers a diploma or associate’s degree. It varies according to the school’s location as well. 

Dental assistant program: Dental assistant programs are commonly found in vocational schools which offer students flexible schedules and special student services. These programs are shorter in length which allows students for faster access to the workforce and helps to acquire the necessary coursework to become dental assistants.

The tuition costs for a dental assistant program can range from $ 3,000 to $ 13,000. Some dental assistant programs can charge extra for things like registration, class supplies, labs, and testing.

Associate Degree: Typically, public or private community colleges offer associate degrees in dental assistant. These programs are usually lengthy and may require full-time enrollment to complete degree work within two years. 

According to a 2019 report, most students in the United States pay between $6,000 and $15,000 per year for their associate’s degree studies.

Dental Assisting  Application Process

The application process for the Dental Assistance courses is quite simple. You do not have to go through any complicated process to apply for the dental assistant course.

Some colleges require specific education for admission such as proficiency in English, cumulative GPA,  science background, etc. On the other hand, typical colleges require only a high school certificate to apply for the study of Dental Assistance.

Does A Dental Assistant Need A License?

No license is required to become an entry-level dental assistant. However, to do some advanced work, you need to be certified or licensed such as taking X-rays, taking blood pressure readings, radiographic procedures, etc.

In the United States, Dental assistants are required to be certified, licensed, or registered in most states except a few.  License requirements vary by state. You must pass a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) test administered by DANB to be licensed as a Dental Assistant. 

What Is Included In The Dental Assistant Examination?

The Certified Dental Assistant exam covers three subjects. These include general chairside assistance, radiation health and safety, and infection control. In the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam, you will find 320 multiple choice questions on these topics.

The National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) exams include Anatomy, Physiology, Morphology, Plus Infection Control and Radiation Health. On the other hand, Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) examinations include only orthodontic support and infection control. 

Is Dental Assisting Difficult To Learn?

Most people find dental assistant training a bit challenging. However, if you are organized, know how to handle situations, and use the right tools at the right time, then dental assistant schools, training, and work will be much more comfortable for you than expected. 

By following subtle protocols, and paying close attention to all the details of the training, you can make your dental assistant training easier and more enjoyable.

How To Get A Job As A Dental Assistant?

To get a job as a Dental Assistant, first, you need to apply for the entry-level Dental Assistant position. Be sure to highlight your educational experience, as well as an internship or volunteer experience, when applying. 

To get a Certified Dental Assistant job, collect all the documents including your DANB certification, and create a resume that shows your familiarity with professional settings, equipment, terminology, dental radiology, patient relationships, and workflow.

Always check the requirements before you apply for a dental assistant job to make sure whether the job is right for you.

Tasks And Duties Of A Dental Assistant

Dental Assistants are responsible for providing assistance to dentists. Most of the assistant’s duties include completing the acceptance paperwork and updating the patient’s record, disinfecting and organizing the dental equipment, and ensuring the dentist’s preparation for the procedure and other patient interactions.

They are also responsible for greeting the patient upon arrival, submitting billing details to the insurance corporation, and preparing the patient’s next appointment before leaving the clinic.

What Are The Primary Responsibilities Of A Dental Assistant?

A dental assistant handles all the responsibilities of a dental office from morning to night. They are the first to encounter a patient during an appointment for dental care. The primary responsibilities of a dental assistant may include:

In addition to the primary responsibilities, a dental assistant perform other tasks such as :

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Maintaining the treatment room clean, safe, and organized
  • Preparing patients for treatment
  • Preparing the work field for the treatment of the patient by Arranging tools and materials
  • Taking bills and insurance from patients
  • Educating patients in oral health care

How Many Hours In A Week Do Dental Assistants Work?

Most dental assistants work from Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 p.m. There may be some exceptions depending on the amount of work during the opening and closing of the dental office.  

Some dental offices are open on weekends. So you may need to come on Saturday and Sunday as well.  Considering this aspect, you may have to work around 40 to 45 hours a week as a dental assistant.

Where Do Dental Assistants Work?

Dental assistants work in a beautiful, enlightened, clean environment. Their work area is usually close to the dentist’s chair so that they can arrange instruments, materials, and medicines and hand them over to the dentist if necessary.

Dental assistants can work in a number of places such as :

Is Dental Assisting A Part-Time Job Or A Full-Time Job?

A dental assistant job is a full-time job. However, you can even work part-time as a dental assistant. Due to the high demand for dental assistants, the flexibility to work full-time or part-time is now available almost everywhere.

Most new dentists hire a part-time dental assistant for their office. This is because the dentist does not have enough work for a full-time assistant at the beginning.

However, most certified dental assistants choose this job as a full-time job because of its work flexibility and good salary.

The employment growth of dental assistants is increasing very fast in this decade. So your chances of getting a full-time job are now greater than ever.

What Are The Advantages Of Being A Dental Assistant?

There are many benefits to being a dental assistant. First of all, you can become a dental assistant in a very short time because the training of a dental assistant is relatively short compared to other health professions. 

Besides, the dental assistant job is now one of the fastest-growing fields out there. So you will not have any problem getting a job as a dental assistant.  

Some of the other benefits you can get from being a dental assistant are:

  • You can work in this job either full-time or part-time
  • Get job training while working.
  • Become certified 
  • You will have a positive work attitude.
  • Gives opportunities to work in different specialties.
  • Comes with pension plans and health insurance.
  • Meets people from all walks of life.
  • You may have the option of a flexible schedule.

Disadvantages Of Being A Dental Assistant

There are some disadvantages as well to being a dental assistant.

  • You have to clean dental equipment contaminated with blood and pus.
  • Sometimes you may have to work on the weekends. 
  • One of the biggest disadvantages of being a dental assistant is that you have to be close to the patient’s mouth.
  • Another disadvantage is that you will experience some unpleasant moments while working with the patient.

Is It Worth It To Be A Dental Assistant?

It depends on you. If you are interested in the dental field and love working with people, then dental assisting may be a good career choice for you. 

Being a dental assistant gives you the opportunity to make a difference in your life and lead you to a growing career. Due to the diversity of work, career opportunities, and flexible schedule, this can be a very fulfilling job for you. 

Besides, helping people stay healthy and seeing their smiles can give you personal satisfaction. However, if you are a person who would rather spend the day in front of a computer, then a dental assisting job is probably not the best choice for you.

Career Growth Possibilities For Dental Assistants

A Dental Assistant career can open the door to many progressive and long-term careers related to dentistry. As a dental assistant, you can advance your career in other professions, such as :

  • Dental office manager
  • Research associate
  • Dental hygienist
  • Dental sales representative
  • Health teacher
  • Dental business team administrator
  • Laboratory technologist
  • Academician
  • Dentist

How Much Does A Dental Assistant Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics (BLS), The national average annual salary of a dental assistant is  $42,310. And the hourly rate for a dental assistant is $20.34. 

The national average annual wage for all occupations is $ 51,960, which is much higher than the dental assistant annual wage. But you can improve your chances of getting a good average salary by updating your resume.

It is important to remember that the salary that a dental assistant makes varies depending on the employer and the state.

Differences Between A Dental Assistant And A Dental Hygienist

Some people are confused about dental assistants and dental hygienists because they think they are both the same. Although both dental assistants and dental hygienists care for the needs of dental patients, these two careers have different roles and responsibilities, as well as different academic and licensing pathways.

To become a dental hygienist, you must have a degree and a license. On the other hand, you can become a dental assistant by taking short training.

Dental hygienists have a much wider range of opportunities to practice than dental assistants. Dental hygienists are also paid significantly more than dental assistants. However, their work is much more complicated than a dental assistant’s work.

Can a Dental Assistant Be a Dentist?

After working for several years as a dental assistant, you can choose to complete an advanced degree to become a dentist.  You also need to pass a state licensing examination to get a Doctor of dental medicine degree. 

The experience you will gain as a dental assistant will help you to become a better dentist in the future.


A job as a dental assistant may not pay much but it can be a fulfilling career for those who want to serve people and have a passion for the job.

So what else do you need to know about how to become a dental assistant?

I’m sure this article is enough to answer all your questions about becoming a dental assistant.

Ready to jumpstart your career as a dental assistant? Contact us today to learn more about our dental implant marketing services and how we can help you reach your professional goals in the dental industry.

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