Associate of Dental Assistant: Degree Overview

Dental assistant associate's programs can prepare students to assist dentists with various tasks, including dental check-ups and surgeries. Programs normally require completing clinical experiences in addition to coursework.

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Essential Information

An Associate of Dental Assistant degree program may be offered at community colleges or technical schools and can usually be completed in two years or less. Students can complete supervised internships or externships to obtain hands-on experience working with patients. Applicants typically need a high school diploma or the equivalent. In some cases, they may also need to provide proof of current immunizations and CPR certification.

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Associate's Degree for Dental Assistant

Students in a dental assisting associate's program learn how to make patients comfortable, conduct basic dental exams, perform cleanings, and answer patients' questions. They may also learn how to maintain patients' dental records, schedule appointments, and communicate with patients about billing and payments. Students learn through a curriculum of lecture and dental laboratory skills. Basic courses may include:

  • Dental materials and anatomy
  • Radiology for dental assistants
  • Infection control and emergency medicine
  • Preventative dentistry
  • Oral pathology
  • Dental office management

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Graduates are qualified to work in many different settings, including dental offices, dental equipment suppliers and hospitals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of dental assistants was projected to grow 18% from 2014-2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS also reported that dental assistants earned a median annual wage of $35,980 as of May 2015.

Continuing Education and Certification Info

Because the duties of a dental assistant are regulated in most states, dental assistants are typically required to be registered or licensed. Licensure allows the dental assistant to perform radiological and advanced procedures in some states, while other states require additional training to perform these procedures. To obtain licensure, candidates must complete formal training and pass an examination. The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) offers the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential to qualified candidates.

Dental assistants may consider continuing education options that could qualify them to become dental hygienists. These professionals work more closely with patients, often using dental instruments to clean and examine teeth. According to the BLS, dental hygienists earned a median annual income of $72,330 in May 2015. Like dental assistant programs, these programs are also offered at the associate's degree level, but bachelor's and master's degree programs in dental hygiene are also available. At the master's level, students may choose concentration options in areas like dental hygiene education or management.

An associate's degree program teaches student the basics of anatomy, radiology, and infection control in the context of a dental practice. This program prepares graduates to work as assistants or to pursue further education in dental hygiene at the bachelor's degree level.

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