How Long Does Dental Assisting School Take?

Dental assistants are an integral part of any dental clinic. They have a wide variety of tasks which can include scheduling patients, preparing them for dental procedures and assisting dentists in carrying out dental procedures. Although dentists spend a long amount of time in school before they can have the designation of doctor of dentistry, dental assistants are fortunate because they don’t have to undergo the same process.

There are actually different paths towards becoming a dental assistant. In some states, dental assistants are not even required to go to dental assisting school. In these states, all that is required is a high school diploma and the dentist or an experienced dental assistant teaches the new hire what his or her responsibilities are on the job. The new assistant gets to learn about the names of the equipment, dental terminology and other tasks during actual work in the office.

For states that do require dental assistants to obtain formal education, there are dental assisting programs that vary in lengths. The most common dental assisting program leads to a certificate or diploma and can be completed in nine to eleven months. Although not as common as that of certificate programs, there are also dental assisting programs that enable a student to earn an associate’s degree in dental assisting. This takes two years to complete.

There are around 270 dental assisting programs that are accredited by the Commission on Dental Association (CODA) of the American Dental Association. Usually, these programs are those that last for about a year. It is highly recommended that those who want to focus on this career enroll in a CODA-accredited program because this is a pre-requisite for taking the Certified Dental Assistant Exam (CDA) administered by the Dental Assisting National Board.

Rules on certification vary from state-to-state but many require graduation from an accredited program which has both classroom and clinical components. Other requirements include finishing the necessary amount of on-the-job training and having a current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.

Some schools offer dental assisting training programs that can be completed in four to six months. Such certificates may be all right in states that don’t require any formal dental assisting program or certification but in those that have formal educational requirements, these programs will not suffice. There are also dental assisting training programs that can be completed online.

What makes these types of programs appealing is the fact that the students who are already working in the industry will not have to stop work just to be able to obtain the training. The rule of thumb when applying to any of these programs is to check if they are accredited by the CODA. By obtaining training from an accredited school, individuals can be sure that they are getting the education that will make them efficient and knowledgeable dental assistants.

Depending on the state where they work in, regulated tasks like corona polishing, sealant application, fluoride application and topical anesthetics application may be done by dental assistants. In states that allow dental assistants to perform these regulated tasks, getting licensed by the Dental Assisting National Board is often a requirement.

Career Spotlight: Dental Assistant

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