Can I Study Online to be a Dental Assistant?

A dental assistant is an integral part of the dental team, working closely with the dentist and the dental hygienist to provide both patient care and administrative support. If you pursue a career as a dental assistant, you’ll perform a variety of tasks such as sterilizing dental instruments, preparing rooms for patients, handing instruments to the dentist and processing x-rays. You may also answer phones, schedule appointments and maintain dental records.

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One reason that dental assisting is a popular career choice is that you can learn the skills needed for this profession in a short amount of time, typically less than a year. Online training programs can prepare you for many of the tasks needed on the job.

Types of Dental Assistant Training Programs

Some states have no formal education requirements while others require dental assistants to graduate from an accredited program. Options for dental assistant training include completing one of the following:

  • Certificate program – This can usually be completed in nine to 11 months and is a good option if you’re looking for a career with a short training period. It’s also a great way to try out dental assisting to see if it’s a good fit for you.
  • Associate’s degree – Attaining this degree is a way to get more thorough training in the field and it can usually be completed in 24 months. Both types of training programs can be completed partly online.

What Do You Study in an Online Dental Assistant Program?

Whether you attend in-person or online training, you’ll need certain basic skills to work as a dental assistant.  Some of what you’ll study may include:

  • Oral anatomy and tooth structure
  • Preventative dentistry
  • Dental radiography
  • Oral pathology
  • Periodontics
  • Dental office management
  • Dental equipment
  • Chairside assistance

Programs may include CPR and first aid. They may also include courses on interpersonal communication to prepare you to offer the best care to patients. Is this hard? This article provides more information.

Online Dental Assistant Programs

Online schools can give you the basic knowledge you need to get started as a dental assistant. Some examples of online dental assistant programs include:

  • University of Houston – Downtown. This comprehensive course prepares students to sit for the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Classes are offered on campus and online, allowing students to choose the format that works best for them. Students are eligible to participate in a 40-hour clinical externship.
  • U.S. Career Institute. This online program can be completed in as little as four months and prepares students to take the Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) exam. Students can learn from electronic or hard copy lesson books, and learn subjects that include preventative dentistry and nutrition, front office procedures, dental pain management and restorative dental procedures.
  • Ed2Go. This online program consists of 240 course hours and can be completed in six months.  It prepares students to sit for the radiology and infection control portions of the DANB. It’s a comprehensive course that teaches students to set up trays for dental procedures, identify teeth and their functions, sterilize instruments, take vital signs and complete patient charting. Toward the end of the course, students can apply for an optional 40-hour dental externship program. To find an Ed2Go program near you, use the search box below:

Search Dental Assistant Programs

Get information on Dental Assistant programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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Do You Need Licensing or Certification to Become a Dental Assistant?

Licensing and certification requirements vary from state to state. Most states don’t require entry-level dental assistants to have a license. Some states do require certification, and even if your state doesn’t require certification to obtain employment, many potential employers prefer candidates who have obtained certification from a national organization such as DANB. 

In some states, licensing is required for specific tasks such as infection control or radiography. Contact the Board of Dental Examiners in your state to find out what’s required where you live.

Salary Potential and Job Outlook for Dental Assistants

Dental assisting is one of the fasted growing professions in the United States, and the job outlook for a career in this field is very good. CareerOneStop reports that projected employment is likely to grow at a rate of about 11 percent between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than average job growth for all professions.

The salary earned by dental assistants can vary based on education, experience and location. The average salary of dental assistants in the United States as of September 2020 was $38,378 according to Salary.com, with pay ranging between $34,060 and $42,431 per year.

Working as a Dental Assistant

Most dental assistants work in dental offices, including family dentists, pediatric dentists and orthodontists. A small number of dental assistants work in doctor’s offices or in government jobs. As a dental assistant, you have the opportunity to work full-time or part-time. Some settings require working evenings or weekends.

As a dental assistant, you’ll enhance the efficiency of a dental office. You’ll enjoy a fulfilling career as you help provide quality dental care to patients and office support to the dental team.