How to Become a Dental Assistant

You have decided to pursue your new career as a dental assistant? You know you can do it and you know that you have scores of choices in colleges, levels of education and areas of expertise.

how to become a dental assistant

You probably even have a pretty good idea of how those different levels of proficiency can affect your range of potential income as well as provide you with the comfortable level of challenge that you will be happy with.

Now you know that you want to become a dental assistant, and you certainly have questions that need to be answered. So, first you will want to find out how to become a dental assistant.

You Hold The Power

Don’t forget for one moment that there are a plethora of options available to you. You know what you need to take hold of the best decisions for your life style. You know how it needs to fit into your schedule.

By now, you probably know if you want to do it mainly through online courses or in the classroom at a college, or how much of each. That’s good, because now you get to choose the route you want to take to start your journey to your new career.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Dental Assistant?

This is one of those questions that we wish we could just have a cut-and-dried, straight answer to, but remember, you have so many options, and for each different choice you may make there are different answers to that question.

But the process of finding out the answer to the questions of how to become a dental assistant or how long does it take to become one should not be like trying to pull teeth. That’s the dentist’s job.

The Quick, General Answer

Once you decide which area of expertise you would like to concentrate on you can begin getting your answers. In general, though, and depending on your focus, one might say that 9 months is a decent ballpark average in which you can become a certified dentist assistant.

You may be choosing an associates degree in a more specific field though, which means that you could be looking at closer to two years, depending on the level of commitment you are able to make

Take into consideration, too, that there are many colleges offering accelerated programs, so if you feel comfortable with the minimum education required or the quickest route, you can also finish your schooling in less time.

As you make your decision just keep in mind the likelihood of more education and training qualifying you for a higher salary and more job flexibility.

Variations From State To State

This news is both exciting and surprising, and also explains why one can’t simply say it will take you exactly this or that many weeks, months or years to become a dentist assistant.

A large factor in your decision of how far to take your education may also be influenced by the different dental assistant titles from one state to the next and how much dental assisting flexibility you can participate in a given state by law.

So, in a small recap now; you know what you want to do, you know what type of educational structure is going to fit best into your current lifestyle and present obligations, and now you will find out what is available to for you to achieve within the state you will be launching your career.

Your next step is to find out the legal minimum requirements that are in place for your state. More importantly, you will seek out how high you can reach in your dental assisting career. That’s where are you now.

It’s time to explore an array of achievements that you may be able to reach for in your locale and, thankfully, you will find a choice of many colleges to help you answer those questions.

Choosing Your Education By Choosing Your Expertise

dental assisting expertise, x-rayDepending on your state, you may be able to become a trained and certified assistant or one who reaches for more specialized training that will make you a more appealing candidate for employment.

One qualifying criterion often required by dentists is the ability to perform coronal polishing procedures (the cleaning and polishing of crowns), as it frees up much more time for the doctor.

A highly sought after level of dental assisting is to be qualified in restorative functions. This is a broad term that enables many different tasks and duties, but closely referring to saving teeth through fillings, crowns, root canals and the like.

Restoration procedures are touched upon in any college training, as is coronal polishing training, but many dentists seek out assistants with a higher level of expertise and certified qualifications.

A certificate in radiologic proficiency may be required. Basic knowledge of radiology will always be taught in training but within specific fields further knowledge and adeptness in radiology are preferred, if not insisted upon. Making oneself stand out usually equals more opportunity and more pay.

You may find that your passion lies in working in the orthodontic environment. Many choose orthodontics because of the job fulfillment of participating in helping others feel better about his or herself through improving their appearance.

If that is your case, it would behoove you to opt for some specialized training at a school that will your enhance your opportunity to be hired within that very interesting field.

Speaking of the fun of helping others to feel better by looking better, you may choose to take the necessary training to do the teeth whitening at your dental office. This is not allowed in all states yet, but is likely to become more commonplace as the dental assistants are allowed to take on more responsibility under the doctor’s supervision.

With the spike expected in available dental assisting jobs it would not be surprising if that is a task that became one commonly done by the assistant.

More Specialization To Consider

It is incredible to see all of the extraordinary specializations possible within the field of dental assisting and it is exciting to know that there are colleges for dental assistants to become well-trained for each one of them. We will consider just a few more, very fascinating options.

An area of expertise that you may want to consider is dental sedation. The ability to share some of the responsibility of anesthesia with the dentist during delicate procedures, monitoring the administration of nitrous oxide, among other things, is a wonderful asset.

Monitoring anesthesia is a weighty responsibility and your abilities might easily put you at the top of the list of his or her potential employees.

The same could be said of those specializing in fluoride administration. If this is an area that sounds attractive to you, make sure you find out early on in the interviewing process if the college you are considering for dental assistance training offers that specific instruction.

That goes for any distinctive branch of dental assisting you are likely to pursue.

It could be more your forte to be more involved in the restoration of teeth, meaning that you could be performing duties such as preliminary assessments of the oral condition, applying fissure and pit sealants, and more occupation in crown and bridge restoration.

If you can think of it, and it is allowable by law, there are appropriate programs and colleges for it.

Words You Need To Remember

Choices, variety, action, ease, and timing are the concepts you should focus on now. (You will get to dental assisting terminology soon enough.) It is in your reach. Although there are many great colleges, some of the more reputable ones are known to have waiting lists, so don’t delay.

There are so many options available, you can practically mold your education around your lifestyle. You can count on a career that offers you remarkable variety, in areas of specialties and in the amount of hours you want to work.

If you find yourself dreaming of a new career, an increase in salary, job security, more fulfillment, challenge or appreciation, you are in luck. The timing is supreme for you to make it all happen to your liking, in your time frame and with your personal specifications.


42 Responses to How to Become a Dental Assistant

  1. When becoming a dental assistant, will I be able to help an orthodontist or is there another field for this?….Is TSTC a good choice to begin for dental assistant?

    • Hi Thalia! Thank you for the question – to be honest, I believe it will depend on the orthodontist that you would like to work for – some appreciate you having specific training via schooling or classes, others will be fine with teaching you the specifics on the job – one thing’s for sure.. becoming a certified dental assistant is a surefire way to get you really familiar with the job, which will usually transfer over into a better chance of feeling immediately comfortable with your daily tasks – sorry I don’t have a more specific answer for you, but take care and all the best!

    • Hi Jessica – some dentists prefer to differentiate themselves by stating they’re a “pediatric dentist” or “specialist” – have you gone through training yet?

      If you’re still researching, I would suggest asking the school you’re interested in if they provide training with a focus on becoming a pediatric dental assistant – if not, you may need to “on-the-job” training, which the dentist would provide – all the best and good luck!

    • Hi Berenice – generally speaking, math is not a skill that you’ll need to have a lot of experience with when becoming a dental assistant – all the best, good luck!

    • Hi Justus, thank you for the question – requesting more information from an online school would be your best bet – we have a search feature on our site that you can use to look for accredited classes online – simply enter your zip code to get started – take care and good luck!

  2. Hi!U av not replied my guestion on whats a zip code cos I live n Nairobi Kenya and we do not use zip codes am interested n da course.Thanx

    • Hi Justus – I’m sorry, I must have missed your previous comment – a zip code is like a postal code – I’m sorry, I was assuming you were from the United Stats – that’s my fault – unfortunately, as far as I know, we’re only able to match up prospective students to US schools at this time – there’s a good chance you would be able to study online, but you should also keep in mind where you want to work after going through your training – different countries/states have different requirements – all the best, good luck!

      • Am in Kenya av worked as a dental assistant but I want to get the certificate so as to be compliant. Here in our country is not offered.My postal code is 511,00100 Nairobi,Kenya.Pliz sent me all da requirements of da college thro ma Email.Thanx

        • Hi again Justus – do you know the requirements for a dental assisting certificate in Kenya? First, you’ll need to figure out what compliance rules you’ll need to meet – then you can get started with the corresponding education – good luck!

          • Hi I understand that after da course one has to be able to know and understand on da chair assisting, understand da different types ofinstruments and their use in various prcedures,the dental materials and their manupulation in different procedures, be able to take both digital and manual x-rays and their processing and understand the chain of cleaning and sterilizing instruments and da area of work.Thanx

  3. Hi , im a recent high school graduate in the state of new orleans,louisiana.
    i have chosen dental assisting as my career. Im having problems finding the best campus for on the spot training. I want to choose a campus with the right amount of training. I want to make sure i get into a good campus so when i look to get a job i wont get denied. I need some help on what it is i need to look for in the schools. thanx

    • Hi Heidy – have you taken a look at what is required by the state? Try this link and see what you find: – it’s hard for me to give you exact recommendations, because it always varies state-to-state – I definitely understand what you’re saying though… you can feel free to use our school matching system by entering your zip code into the form at the top left of this page – when you speak with the school, make sure to fully understand what all will be covered – that way you’ll know exactly how much training you’ll be receiving – all the best!

  4. Hi!U did not reply to my mail send to you on the May 16.I also wanted to ask if one has worked with a dentist can you offer the examination then he gets the certificate without going through the training cos he knows mostly all the procedures and instruments.Thanx

    • Hi Justus – I’m sorry for the delay! Yes, I believe that is possible – it really depends on what state you will be working in – if you’re working outside of the United States, it will also vary – if you can, speaking to a local dentist would be your best bet – that way, you’ll understand if there are any tests you need to pass for dental assistant certification, what they expect from you, etc – all the best, thanks for the question!

  5. HI!I have talked to a dentist and the comment from him was I do the online class cos he needs a certificate to show I have the qualification.Already I have worked with one for six years.So please can you sent for me the examination from the best college you know as soon as possible.What they expect from me are the things I had stated in the mail of date 16th,May last week.Thanks

    • Hi Justus – did he mention anything about what type of certification? If it’s just an accredited certificate, you can more than likely take any online course or class, as long as the school is accredited – to start, use the form at the top left of our site – leave the “Zip Code” box blank and click “Get Matched Now” – once the results pop up, look for “Stratford Career Institute” – then click, “Request More Info” and enter your information – this should allow you to study from home and earn your accredited degree – I hope that works for you, all the best – no problem!

  6. Hello, I am a single mom looking to become a dental assistant. But after I become one, would it be a challenge to further my education and become a dental hygienist? Keep in mind, I am a single mom so I am looking for the best options available. Thank you.

    • Hi Rheanita – yes, you could become a dental assistant and then further your education, but it will take time and effort – you can certainly do it, but it will take dedication and shuffling your schedule around – good luck!

  7. Hey I was wondering if lets say I get to study being a dental assistant just as a side job is that even kind of possible and study for something else as my career..ooh and im berely a high school graduate.

    • Hi Ale – yeah, that’s possible – you could even look for a dental assisting job and then begin taking additional classes – once you become certified you can usually take on more responsibility and get paid more – speaking to the person hiring you and asking questions like that would be a good idea – good luck!

  8. to become a dentist assistant, does that require me to have a college degree? what classes do i take in college? how long does it take? what about becoming a dentist?

    • Hi Cindi – not all dental assistant jobs require a college degree, depending on what tasks the dentist expects you to be doing – certified or “registered” dental assistants tend to have more responsibility, allowing for a higher salary – four years of dental courses and classes tends to be the minimum for becoming a dentist – I hope this info has helped you may a decision for yourself – good luck!

  9. Hi, I’am a dentist from mexico , and i want to know , if i can work as a dental assitent in U>S>A …thank tou .

    • Hi Ricardo – you’ll need to check with the state you’ll want to work in – requirements vary based on each individual state – searching online or calling the dental board would be a good idea – thanks for the question!

  10. hi i will start the dental program in september and i was wondering if i wanted to further my education in the dental and become a dental hygentist …how long will it take in college ? will it be shorter years, because of the experience that i will already have?

    • Hi Fathia – it will vary on what sort of classes and certification you start with – I do believe it will be a shorter amount of time, since you’ll have experience and some requirements already met. My best advice is to speak to a counselor at the school you’ll be going to and see what they say. Take care!

  11. I’ll never become a dentist because I won’t have the money for school. But I would like to be involved in this work line. Is the schooling for a dental assistance alot.

    • Hi Joe – my best advice would be to look for a dental assisting position that doesn’t require any training – as long as you’re likable, have good people skills and are eager to learn, some dentist’s will take you on and help teach you – although, with that being said, these kinds of positions are getting harder to come by nowadays, but they do still exist – good luck!

  12. Hi, wil u help me, i was working as dental assistane for 3yrs, i dont have qualification for dental assistant, i like this job, problem is that most post they want dental assistant who is registered with Hpcsa, wil it be possible for me to register even though i dont have qualifications

    • Hi Jennifer – I’m not sure I fully understand the question… although, if you’re not qualified for the certification, you’ll need to do what’s necessary to make that happen first… whether that’s taking dental assisting classes or training, that will need to be done first – all the best and take care!

  13. i am interested in becoming a dental assistant and then furthering my education and become either a dentist or a dental hygienist. around how much is college to become a dental assistant? in high school i never took any classes like Biology, chemistry, ect. will that affect becoming a dental assistant or going further?

    • Hi Jack – that sounds like a great idea… I don’t believe not taking those kinds of classes will affect you very much – if you’d like to get into a dental assisting career the quickest, going to some sort of specific trade school is your best bet, one that trains you in a certain amount it weeks – it puts you on the fast track to receiving your certification once you’ve passed the required tests – all the best and good luck!

  14. Hello! I was just wondering if I have no basics in college other than like English 1301 where would I start? Do I have to have my basics before I can even start trying to get into an online program for Dental Hygienist or can I just start a program? I am sorry if its a silly question just a little unsure! Thanks! Kelli

    • Hi Kelli – to be honest, I’m not entirely sure – it depends what kind of college you go to… I believe if you go to a trade school, you won’t have any prerequisite classes… I could be wrong on that, so please confirm with a counselor to be sure – all the best and best of luck!

  15. Hi I was wondering if it was possible 4 me. 2 go 2 da nearest. dental hospital n volunteers da b4. I study dental assistant wil dey allow it?

    • Hi George – to be honest, something like this will always vary – I think it would be best for you to give them a call and simply ask… see what they say… and then take it from there – all the best!

  16. How much money will college cost to become a dental hygienist? What is the main thing dental hygienists do? What is the difference between a dental hygienist and a dentist? How long will I have to go to college for to become a dental hygienist?

    • Hi Harliegh – here’s a great article on the differences between dental assistants and hygienists – this will give you a better idea on which will suit you best, and which tasks are done by whom – the cost of college will vary, depending on if you choose to study at-home, online or on-campus – it usually takes between 2-3 years on average to become a certified dental hygienist – all the best!

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