Dental Certification and Diploma Program Overviews

In a dental assisting diploma program students receive training in laboratory procedures, chair side assisting and administrative duties. Many programs can be completed in less than a year and cover key areas of dental theory, practice and science.

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Essential Information

A diploma in dental assisting program prepares students for entry-level work as dental assistants in less than a year. The goal of a dental assisting diploma program is to ensure that graduates become productive members of a dental health team.

Dental assistant credentials vary from state to state. 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. The only requirement for admission in to a dental assisting program is a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

Dental Assistant Certification or Diploma

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

  • Dental science
  • 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 18% from 2014-2024. 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 $35,980 in 2015.

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.

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.

A diploma in dental assisting provides students with the dental knowledge and skills needed to perform entry level jobs as dental assistants. Many diploma holders choose to earn certification from the DANB and even advance their education with an associate's degree in dental assisting.

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