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Dental Certification and Diploma Program Overviews

Learn about diploma programs that prepare students to become dental assistants. Find out about education and certification in the field of dental assisting.

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Essential Information

A diploma in dental assisting program prepares students for entry-level work as dental assistants. While enrolled in the program, students receive training in laboratory procedures, chair side assisting and administrative duties. Many diploma programs in dental assisting can be completed in less than one year and prepare students in key areas of dental theory, practice and science. The goal of a dental assisting diploma program is to ensure that graduates become productive members of a dental health team.

Some states require dental assistants to be certified. The Dental Assisting National Board is the primary governing body for dental assistants in the United States and administers dental assistant certification exams. Dental assisting diploma programs prepare future dental assistants for these certification exams.

Program Coursework

Students learn how to use dental equipment and become familiar with common dental terminology. Coursework emphasizes office responsibilities such as patient records management and reception. Some possible courses include:

  • Dental science
  • Dental terminology
  • Dental assisting clinical
  • Radiology
  • Dental office management
  • Dental ethics
  • Treatment room preparation
  • Dental laboratory procedures

Job Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,, the employment of dental assistants is expected to grow by 31% from 2010-2020. The primary reason for the excellent job growth is the increased emphasis on preventative dental care and the growing elderly population. The BLS reported that the annual median salary of a dental assistant was $34,500 in 2012.

Certification and Continuing Education Information

Dental assistants can achieve certification through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Recognized in more than 30 states, the DANB requires that dental assisting graduates take the DANB certification examination. The exam can only be taken by graduates of dental assisting programs that are accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA). Students who have not graduated from an ADA-accredited program may be eligible to take the exam if they have either two years of full-time work experience or four years of part-time work. The DANB certification also requires that students be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

A diploma in dental assisting prepares graduates for entry-level jobs. Students who are interested in continuing their education and increasing their job prospects can choose to enter into an associate's degree program in dental assisting. An associate's degree takes two years to complete and offers in-depth training on the practice and theory of dental assisting.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics