What Education is Required to be a Dental Assistant

By Parvez Miah Jan 23, 2024
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A career as dental assistant holds much promise for the person interested in oral health and patient care. Dental assistants play a pivotal role of administration assistance to dentists who engage in various activities to ensure that each dental procedure goes on smoothly. There needs to be some educational path that has to be pursued in order to get into this rewarding career. The following paragraph provides an insight into the essential education, training programs and skills being required for a dental assistant.

Educational Needs

A High School Diploma or Equivalent

In a traditional sense, the road to becoming a dental assistant starts with the formal acquisition of a high school diploma or its type, such as GED. High school biology, chemistry, and health courses all lay great groundwork for many of the more specific areas of knowledge found within dental assistant programs.

Postsecondary Education

Even though some dental assistants may start working without formal education and do their training at the workplace, several employers prefer applicants with formal education. The commonest way dentistry assistants get trained is by enrolling in a dental assisting program of between nine and eleven months from various community college, vocational school, or technical institutes.

Training Programs for Dental Assistants

Accredited Programs

Training programs that are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) should be considered in this regard. These programs tend to offer high standards of education and help train students into becoming competent professionals, ideal for dental office employment.


A dental assistant training program typically spans a duration of 9 months to 2 years resulting in a certificate or diploma. A few programs also enable students to earn an associate degree for dental assistant.

Curriculum Snapshot

Courses in dental assistant programs include a wide variety of topics that are applicable to the same field. Students will study dental anatomy, radiography, dental materials, infection control, chairside assisting techniques, and dental office management. Clinical experience is also included as every student is performing their duties with the knowledge gain by them theoretically and practically.

Clinical Externships

Several courses within the program’s curriculum include clinical externships or internships as a requirement for accreditation. These opportunities for which students may learn through practical application and practice of skills in real-life situations are guided by licensed practicing dental professionals.

Certification and Licensure

Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Certification

While most states do not require it, certification by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) enhances chances of employment. Certification as a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) is offered in most states, citing one who is adequate to his line of work.

State Licensure

In several states, dental assistants need to be licensed or abide by other regulated requirements that the state imposes. It might necessitate passing an exam along with being in continuing education. Paying heed to the licensure criteria by his/her state as concerns dental assistant candidates is essential.

Basic Skills and Qualities

Communication Skills

While performing dental procedures, dental assistants will have to see and speak with patients, dentists, as well as other team members on a daily basis. Such a job requires effective communication skills meaning describing situations to be able to detail the process, easing the minds of nervous patients, and interaction with colleagues over work issues.


Dental procedures require accuracy in doing things, and dental assistants have to show meticulous attention. Keeping perfect records of patient information, read laying instruments required during procedures and stepping on to assist the dentist during treatments defines organizational skills.


From scheduling appointments to sterilizing equipment, many times a dental assistant’s role is multifaceted. Moreover, organizational skills are important in handling such high paces of dental office environments.

Technical Skills

Dental assistance should be in a position to operate dental machines such as the X-ray and sterilization devices. Dental assistance should familiarize themselves with dental software, meant for task scheduling, appointment setting as well as recordkeeping.


Becoming a dental assistant combines education, hands-on training, and necessary skills. Many of those that choose to become dental assistants are able to gain the education and training that is involved in a formal setting that comes along with an accredited program, there are likely to be countless others who will gain the proper training simply on-the-job. The demand for oral healthcare professionals may have gone through the roof, but nothing short of a thought-out education and dedication will point the way towards a fruitful career as a dental assistant.

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