Dental assistant certificate programs can educate students about administrative and clinical aspects of a dental business while also teaching them basic patient care skills. In programs that span approximately one year, students have the opportunity to gain a practical understanding of job duties through hands-on practice in disinfecting instruments, obtaining dental records, interacting with patients and working alongside dentists during procedures. A dental assistant's job duties and responsibilities can vary greatly, depending on the work setting and state of employment.
Dental Assistant Certificate Program
Admission to a certificate program in dental assisting typically requires a high school diploma or the equivalent. Students also might be required to hold CPR certification and meet medical and physical standards set by the school. Many dental assistant certificate programs incorporate clinical practice or internships into their curricula. Students also might gain experience in chair-side support, pain management and patient intake, in addition to learning about technological advances in the field. Generally, a dental assistant curriculum contains courses such as:
- Dental radiology
- Oral anatomy and physiology
- Dental materials
- Infection control
- Laboratory procedures
- Dental office management and administration
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that employment opportunities should be very strong for dental assistants, with an anticipated 11% increase in jobs between 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2018, the mean annual wage for dental assistants was $39,770.
Continuing Education and Credentialing Information
Community colleges often offer 2-year associate's degree programs in dental assisting, which are similar to certificate programs but include general education courses. With further education or training, dental assistants might advance to positions as dental office managers, sales representatives or dental assisting teachers. Some also might choose to go on to dental hygienist degree programs or complete additional training in radiological procedures.
In some states, dental assistants must be licensed or registered in order to perform radiological procedures or other advanced duties. Licensing or registration typically requires completion of an accredited dental assisting program and passage of one or more exams. Some states require credentialing as a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) through the Dental Assisting National Board; in other states, dental assistants might voluntarily seek the CDA credential. Continuing education is required to maintain CDA certification and might be required for licensure or registration maintenance as well.
Dental assistant certificate programs typically include a combination of classroom learning and hands-on training in order to prepare students for both clinical and administrative duties in a dental office.