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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Kentucky

Dental assisting is an excellent career for anyone interested in healthcare but unable to spend years in school. To become a dental assistant in Kentucky, you can complete a short academic program or begin working for a dentist and receiving training on the job. Kentucky does not license dental assistants. The state puts the responsibility on employers to assure their employees are trained and can perform certain functions.

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How to Become a Dental Auxiliary in Kentucky

The first level of a dental assistant in Kentucky is a dental auxiliary. You do not need any formal education, training, or credential for this position. Auxiliary dental assistants are allowed to perform only certain, limited tasks in the office. These are generally clerical and administrative tasks, such as answering phones, scheduling appointments, and handling billing and insurance paperwork.

You can become a dental auxiliary by simply applying for a position at a dental office and going through on-the-job training. You can begin working for a dentist as a dental auxiliary and performing any duties allowed by state law.

The dentist may determine which allowable functions you can perform under direct supervision. These may include taking vital signs, assisting during procedures and taking initial impressions for dental models.

How to Become a Registered Dental Assistant in Kentucky

The next level recognized by the Kentucky Board of Dentistry is registered dental assistant or RDA. Dental assistant training programs in Kentucky generally take one year or less to complete. As an RDA, you will be allowed to perform all the duties of a dental auxiliary, plus additional functions that fall under the expanded duties for an RDA.

The only requirement you must meet as a dental assistant is to hold a current certification in CPR. The other conditions are the responsibility of your employing dentist. They must:

  • Register the dental assistant on their dental license
  • Keep proof of CPR certification in a personnel file
  • Maintain in the personnel file a statement attesting that the dental assistant is competent in the duties assigned
  • Keep a record of any certifications or completed courses the dental assistant has achieved for specific functions, including coronal polishing, radiography, and starting IV lines

Performing Expanded Functions as a Kentucky Dental Assistant

In addition to becoming an RDA in Kentucky, you can become qualified to perform one or all of three expanded functions:


To operate X-ray equipment, you must complete a Board-approved course or a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)-approved course. Otherwise, you must pass the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) radiology exam.

Coronal Polishing. 

To be allowed to perform coronal polishing for patients, you need to complete an eight-hour course in the subject from a CODA-accredited school.

Starting Intravenous (IV) Access Lines

You may start IV Lines on patients if you have completed a Board-approved course in the subject.

CODA-Accredited Dental Assistant Schools in Kentucky

Kentucky does not require you to complete a dental assistant program. Dental assistants in Kentucky can complete an academic program and earn a certificate, diploma, or degree, or they can begin working in a dental office and receive on-the-job training.

You may want to consider this path to dental assisting because it will make you a more desirable job candidate. Dental assistant programs typically last from 9 to 12 months. Dental assistant programs in Kentucky are accredited by the CODA.

It will also allow you to perform more functions on the job and potentially earn more. With a degree or certificate, you can eventually become a dental hygienist through a bridge program.

West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah, KY

Kentucky has two schools with CODA-accredited programs. West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah offers a dental assistant diploma program that takes two semesters to complete.

Big Sandy Community and Technical College in Prestonsburg has integrated dental hygiene and dental assistant programs. The dental assistant program is a diploma course, while the dental hygiene program confers an associate degree and takes two years to complete.

You may also want to consider an online program if you cannot easily access these campuses. Penn Foster offers an online dental assistant program that you can complete from anywhere.

Career Growth in Dental Assisting

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), growth in the industry is strong. Dental assisting is one of the fastest-growing occupations, with a projected 19% growth from 2016 to 2026.

This is much faster than the average for all occupations.

As the population ages and people want to maintain their teeth for longer, the demand for dental services will continue to grow. This means that It projects 11% growth over the next ten years. 

Kentucky’s growth is slower, at less than 1%. It is still growing, however, which means you can expect there to be an increasing number of job openings each year over the next decade.

Salary Expectation For Dental Assistants

The BLS reports a median annual salary of $41,180 for dental assistants across all states. Dental assistants in Kentucky make a median wage of $35,710 per year. Your experience will have the biggest impact on how much you can earn.

The median hourly rate is $19.80. However, the highest earners work for government agencies and can make much more.

In Kentucky, the average annual salary is $39,094. Entry-level dental assistants in the state earn $26,570 on average, while those with experience can make about $53,000.

Where to Find a Job as a Dental Assistant in Kentucky

The vast majority of dental assistants work in dental offices and private practices. This is a good place to start looking for a job and a sponsoring dentist. You will find more opportunities in the larger population centers of the state, including LouisvilleLexington, and Bowling Green.

In addition to dental offices, dental assistants may also be hired by physician offices, hospitals, government agencies, university dental schools, residential nursing homes, and community health clinics.

Working as a dental assistant can be a gratifying career. It allows you to work hands-on with patients, learn on the job, and advance with the proper education. Dental assisting is a good stepping stone to other careers in the dental field, such as dental hygiene or dentistry. If you’re ready to start a healthcare career in Kentucky but cannot afford the time and money, consider dental assisting as a great place to start.


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