How to Become a Dental Assistant? How Long Does It Take?


The profession of a dental assistant is a lucrative career option that offers high security in terms of income. The increasing popularity of this job is due to the growing demand for assistants.

With the development of technology and advancements in the field, job opportunities for dental assistants are higher.

Many people become dental assistants to fetch a rapid entry into the workplaces and start earning soon.

Research shows that the growth rate of the profession from 2019 to 2029 is 7%. With an interest in the relevant subjects, you can reap the benefit of this opportunity.

To know if the career entices you or not, read on to learn about the roles of a dental assistant.

They perform a plethora of services and hence, should have proficiency in technical and soft skills.

The technical skills will help them work with high-end technology used in dentistry. With the aid of the required soft skills, they can communicate effectively with patients as well as the supervising dentist.

Various abilities like management, attention to detail, and effective communication help them to support dentists during treatment.

Dental assistants are required to maintain the working area for the dentist to treat the patients, sterilize and handle various tools, and maintain the hygiene of the workplace.

In some clinics, the dental assistants should also know the business ethics. Such knowledge helps them to fabricate bills, maintain records, and schedule and confirm the appointments of the clients.

Some states also require dental assistants to perform complex activities. These activities include processing X-rays, applying dental crowns, taking blood pressure and pulse, etc.

Generally, they work full time, but various part-time opportunities are also available for individuals.

Do read the article till the end and learn more about how you can become a dental assistant.

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High School Certification

The first step towards becoming a dental assistant is to procure your high school credentials. If you do not have a high school certificate, then you should have the General Education Diploma (GED).

GED provides the same benefits as a high school diploma.

Acquiring a high school diploma is the most crucial step to begin your career as a dental assistant.

Such formal education credentials increase your credibility and reliability and thus, help you participate in further training programs.

You should make sure to attain your diploma in related subjects. The domains related to dental assistants are Anatomy, Chemistry, Biology, Health Science, and Business Ethics or Management.

Business Ethics or Management teaches you the regulations of a workplace and other soft skills. These regulations are crucial when working under a supervisor.

Some people also initiate their career as a dental assistant only with a high school certificate. But, these individuals are always at a disadvantage as compared to their competitors.

During high school, you can obtain extensive experience in this field. Such experience comes from enrolling yourself in various internships and voluntary working programs.

Internships taken up by individuals during the summer vacations help them to learn how to work under the supervision of a dentist.

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Certificate Program

dental assistant at workYou can become a certified dental assistant by enrolling yourself in a certificate program. Before applying for such a program, conduct extensive research about the requirements of your state.

Different states have different requirements for dental assistants. Some may not even require you to undertake any certificate program.

However, such additional pieces of training will help you to be at an advantage over your competitors.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredits the certificate program of your state. There are three types of certificate programs, namely a diploma, certificate, or an Associate’s degree.

The program for which you apply has an effect on the duration of your training. Generally, such programs take approximately one to two years.

With the aid of an accredited certificate program, you can learn the theory and the practices related to this domain.

In the practical sessions, the prospective dental assistants learn the usage of dental instruments, treatment of teeth and gums, CPR, first aid, dental pharmacology, dental office administration, etc.


A license works as proof of your formal education in the field of dental assistants. There are two methods to procure your license to practice this profession.

Firstly, you can contact the State Dental Board of your state.

Secondly, you could go through the website of the Dental Assistant National Board (DANB). The website of the board consists of various requirements of certification and the licensure process.

Though the requirements differ from state to state, the basic attributes necessary to qualify for the exams are as follows:

  • The prospective dental assistant should have graduated from an accredited program.
  • It can be a situation when the state of an individual does not compel them to take up any accredited program. In such cases, the students should have their high school certificates or GED.
  • They should have undertaken CPR training.

DANB supervises the Certified Dental Assistant exam (CDA). This exam helps the prospective assistants to acquire their license.

The exam consists of 320 questions which are 900 points and the minimum limit of points which the students should secure to pass is 400 points.

Individuals give the exam in the Pearson Inc. VUE centers.

There are three parts to this exam, that are as follows:

  • Radiation health and safety
  • General chairside
  • Infection control

In case an individual fails in the exam, they can retake it or acquire different training from elsewhere.

Another exam administered by the DANB is the national entry-level dental assistant test. Though the exam is not mandatory, it provides you with extra training to establish an excellent career path.

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dental toolsIndividuals with an in-training program in this field have a stronger and more compelling resume. There are various programs that offer voluntary externship facilities to prospective dental assistants.

You can acquire an externship in various subjects like dental pharmacology, chairside assistant, oral anatomy, radiology, etc.

Some people aim at becoming a dental assistant in a specific field. So, they should take up externships in that particular domain.


Hence, becoming a dental assistant requires nine months to two years. The duration varies depending on your degree, certificate, or diploma program.

Various statistics show that a dental assistant is a lucrative career option.

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage of dental assistants is approximately $40,080 as of May 2019.

Moreover, there are approximately 165 job opportunities per year for dental assistants.

The job settings of the dental assistants differ according to the dentist under whom they may work. So, a dental assistant may work in schools, clinics, public health programs, sites, or data school clinics.

They can also work with private dentists in their workplace. Specialties practice include Orthodontics or Oral Surgery.

Hence, by taking all the above information into account, you can decide your training and work setting.

The more formal credentials and pieces of training you procure, the better are your chances of becoming a dental assistant.

Greater investment results in greater return in the form of high revenues.


  • Efa Yasin, exhibits her witty personality, through her intriguing writings. Her works have been published on various websites, like NOGOZO and THETOPTOURS. With her forte being in English, she has conducted researches and concocted articles on various niches like marketing, travel and tourism, information technology, and many more.

  • As a Humanities undergrad, Anwesha Sen explores her creative side by writing about fields such as finance, education, marketing, and tourism. Her work has been published on various company blogs. She thoroughly enjoys traveling and learning about new cultures. Being a sucker for mysteries, she spends most of her free time watching documentaries on unsolved crimes.

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