Dental Assistant: Online Diploma

Dec 09, 2019

Essential Information

Although fairly uncommon, there are some online dental assisting diploma programs available. These programs help students develop the skills needed to work with patients and handle office administrative tasks. Online dental assisting diploma programs are usually offered in a hybrid format. Students may complete much of the coursework online, but individuals also need to fulfill clinical lab requirements at a dental office near their home. Prerequisites typically include a high school diploma or GED and CPR certification.

Dental Assisting Diploma

During an online dental assisting diploma program, students learn about dental procedures, chair-side assistance and equipment sterilization. Patient education and communication are also covered. Due to the clinical nature of the dental assisting profession, schools often require students to secure CPR certification prior to or shortly after entering a program. Applicants also need a high school diploma or GED.

Information and Requirements

Students must have access to a computer with a reliable Internet connection to take a diploma program's online coursework. In some cases, online options are limited to general education requirements, while other schools might allow students to complete core dental assisting courses from home. However, students in both types of programs typically need to participate in on-campus laboratory sessions or complete clinical experiences at dental offices or clinics. It can take a year or more to fulfill these program requirements, depending on students' enrollment status

Course Topics

In addition to coursework in dental assisting procedures, students in diploma programs take a few general education courses in such topics as English, communications and psychology. They might also study medical terminology and nutrition.

Dental Assisting Concepts

This introductory course covers the history of the occupation, in addition to topics in job safety and dental terminology. Students also learn about basic patient care procedures and legal regulation of the profession.

Dental Materials

Students learn how to handle the materials used for dental surgery and restoration procedures. This course may also include laboratory experiences where students undertake such tasks as creating dental molds and impressions.

Dental Radiology

This course teaches students how to properly care for radiographic equipment. They also learn how to produce radiographic images used to diagnose dental or oral conditions. Radiation safety is discussed as well.

Career Information

Graduates who complete dental assisting diploma programs can obtain work with such employers as dental supply companies, dental school clinics, private dental practices and insurance companies. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected an 11% increase in employment opportunities for these professionals through the 2018-2028 decade. This was due in part to increasing demand for preventative dental services and a growth in dental practices. Additionally, federal health insurance reform will lead to increasing numbers of people with health insurance who are seeking coverage. As of May 2018, the average annual salary for dental assistants was $39,770, per the BLS.

Continuing Education Information

The majority of states have some type of licensure or certification requirements for dental assistants, especially for those who perform dental radiology procedures. Regulation in each state differs, but many recognize the Dental Assisting National Board's (DANB) Certified Dental Assistant credential. To become certified, the DANB requires candidates to earn CPR certification and complete an approved academic training program or acquire 3,500 hours of work experience. Applicants also need to pass a written exam.

Students interested in continuing their education might want to consider pursuing associate degrees in dental assisting. These 2-year programs are also available in a hybrid format.

Hybrid online dental assistant programs combine online coursework with clinical experience in dental offices or clinics. After program completion, students may need to meet state licensure or certification requirements.

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