|Program Level(s)||Certificate or diploma programs|
|Field(s) of Study||Dental assisting|
|Accreditation||Choose a program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) to be qualified to sit for the national certification exam|
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Online Availability||Hybrid programs are available|
|In-Person Requirements||Complete clinical hours at a dental office under the supervision of a certified professional|
|Program Length||Varies by program|
|Licensure/Certification||Licensure requirements vary by state (confirm your program meets your state's requirements before you begin)|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||18%|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)||$35,980|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Several schools offer online training programs in dental assisting. Some award certificates or diplomas. In these programs, students complete many courses online. However, they must also complete clinical practice requirements. Because of this, most programs are a hybrid format.
In a dental assisting training program, students learn about the anatomy of the head, face and neck; study basic assisting techniques; and train in dental radiology. They may also learn about dental office management procedures. The clinical portion of the program gives them experience working with patients.
Students should look for a program that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants vary by state. Students should check with their state's board of dentistry to see if a program meets requirements. A certified program qualifies a student to take national certification exams through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
Students enrolled in online programs typically complete the bulk of the required coursework online. Reading materials are usually available online, and homework and tests can be downloaded and completed online through the program's website. Typically, students must also complete clinical hours at a dental office under the supervision of a certified professional.
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Coursework for online programs focuses on the principles of oral anatomy, radiology and dental science. Once students complete the required online coursework, they must complete clinical hours at a dental office.
Oral anatomy coursework focuses on teaching about the structures and functions of the head, face and neck. Students also study the musculature, bones and circulatory system of these structures. Oral radiology coursework teaches students safety precautions and general components involved in using the dental x-ray equipment. Students study the composition, sizes and types of dental x-ray film. Students complete extensive hours of clinical work under the supervision of licensed dentists. Clinical hours are meant to put the principles learned through online coursework to the test in the physical realm of the dental office.
As of May 2015, the median annual income for a dental assistant was $35,980, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS reported that, between 2014 and 2024, job opportunities for dental assistants are expected to grow by 18%.
Continuing Education and Licensure Information
Requirements for dental assistants vary from state to state. Graduates of dental assisting programs typically take the required examinations needed to obtain certification. Students interested in finding requirements relevant to them should contact their state regulatory agency or research on DANB's website, www.danb.org. DANB also offers information on national certification exams for dental assistants.
Online dental assisting programs provide students with a well-rounded education in dental anatomy and the skills needed to work as a dental assistant, but programs do require clinical work that must be completed on-site.