Certificate and associate's degree programs in dental assisting are designed to teach aspiring dental assistants about dental anatomy, pathology and materials and will include coursework addressing dental x-rays. Hands-on practice in the use of dental x-ray equipment is achieved through dental lab exercises. Associate's degree programs may also include coursework in pediatric dentistry and general education. Specific requirements for students seeking to enter a dental radiography program could include proof of vaccinations and CPR certification. Graduates of either program are eligible to sit for state and national dental board examinations that result in the Registered and Certified Dental Assistant credential.
High school diploma or GED, proof of a recent physical exam, Hepatitis B and tetanus vaccinations and CPR certification are required for these programs. Students must also submit to a criminal background check. It takes 2 years to complete the associate's degree program. Since dental assistant programs require hands-on instruction, they are not typically offered online.
Certificate of Completion in Dental Assisting
The curriculum of this program includes traditional classroom coursework combined with hands-on training in student dental labs. Dental assisting courses train students to perform oral examinations and assist dentists during preventative, restorative and cosmetic dental procedures and surgeries. Students learn to use dental tools and equipment and practice taking x-rays during a dental radiography course. Topics of discussion include oral health, dental practice safety and management and dental specialties.
During this program, students become proficient at performing dental procedures like irrigating root canals and assisting in the bonding or filling of teeth. Coursework also prepares students to educate patients on oral health and decay prevention. Other courses include:
- Dental anatomy
- Biodental science
- Dental materials
- Dental emergencies
- Operative procedures
Associate in Applied Science in Dental Assisting
This program prepares students to work alongside dentists and oral surgeons in the promotion and restoration of a patient's oral health. Students learn dental office management skills and develop interpersonal skills to help anxious patients feel at ease during dental procedures. Coursework includes pre-clinical and clinical courses, both in the classroom and in dental labs, with coursework in general and pediatric clinical practice and dental radiography. Admittance requirements are similar to that of the certificate program.
Coursework covers a broad range of dental assisting procedures, from taking x-rays to assisting in oral surgeries and emergency and restorative procedures. Courses in the degree program include:
- Maxillofacial surgery
- Periodontal dental practice
- Dental pathology
- Orthodontic practice
Popular Career Options
Graduates of associate's programs in dental assisting go on to work as registered dental assistants (RDAs) and certified dental assistants (CDAs) in a variety of supportive roles and settings. Many dental assistants go on to careers in:
- General dentistry
- Pediatric dentistry
- Oral surgery
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), dental assistants held 318,800 jobs in the U.S. in 2014. The BLS also reported that jobs in this profession would grow by 18% between the years 2014 and 2024. The mean salary for dental assistants in 2015 was $36,920.
Continuing Education Information
Graduates of certificate programs in dental assisting are eligible to sit for state administered examinations to become registered dental assistants. Graduates can also take the national examination offered through the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc., resulting in the Certified Dental Assistant credential. Graduates can also enroll in an associate's degree program in dental or orthodontic assisting.
Graduates of associate's program in dental assisting are eligible for state licensure and national certification as RDAs and CDAs; some state dental boards offer professional certification in dental radiography. Graduates might also benefit from enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in health science or healthcare administration.
Students who want to be certified in dental radiography can complete a certificate or associate's degree in dental assisting. When students graduate from either program, they will be eligible to sit for state and national board examinations.