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Find Dental Assistant Programs in Montana

To work as a dental assistant in Montana, you must go to school or undergo specific training with a licensed dentist.

Once you do, you can enjoy a stable, hands-on career with direct patient care. If you are interested in a healthcare career without four years of school, this could be the job for you.

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Do Dental Assistants Need to Be Licensed in Montana?

The Montana Board of Dentistry does not license or register dental assistants in the state. It does, however, recognize two levels of dental assistants.

It is the responsibility of the supervising dentist to ensure a dental assistant meets all the requirements for the functions allowed at each level:

  • Dental Auxiliary. If you qualify as a dental auxiliary in Montana, you can collect patient data, perform coronal polishing, remove sutures, take impressions, apply topical fluoride, place sealants, place and remove rubber dams, remove excess cement, monitor nitrous oxide, and apply topical anesthetics.
  • Certified Dental Assistant (CDA). A CDA has met all the requirements set by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) for certification. In Montana, a CDA can perform all the functions of a dental auxiliary. The difference is that a dentist must directly supervise an auxiliary. A CDA can perform these duties under general supervision, which means the dentist does not need to be on the premises.

Any level of dental assistance in Montana must meet state radiography requirements to operate X-ray equipment. There are three ways to qualify:

  1. Pass the DANB Radiation Health and Safety exam.
  2. Graduate from a dental assisting program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
  3. Attain dental radiography certification through military service.

How to Become a Dental Auxiliary in Montana

Montana recognizes three pathways to becoming a dental auxiliary:

  1. Enroll in and complete a CODA-accredited dental assistant program.
  2. Receive on-the-job training from a licensed dentist.
  3. Complete Board-approved continuing education courses in dental assisting.

How to Become a Certified Dental Assistant

To become a CDA in Montana, or anywhere, you must meet the requirements set by DANB, which offers three different options:

  1. Complete a CODA-accredited dental assistant program and hold certification in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Basic Life Support (BLS), or Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS).
  2. Graduate from high school or hold a GED, have 3,500 hours of work experience, and hold CPR, BLS, or ALCS certification.
  3. Have expired CDA status or graduated from an approved dental program in another state or country. Hold CPR, BLS, or ALCS certification.

Once you have completed one of these pathways, you can apply for certification and take the CDA exam.

It includes three components: general chairside assisting, radiation health and safety, and infection control.

Can Dental Assistants Operate dental radiographic equipment?

Yes, dental assistants can operate dental radiographic equipment in Montana as long as they have met state radiography requirements. There are three ways to qualify:

  • Pass the DANB Radiation Health and Safety exam.
  • Graduate from a dental assisting program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
  • Attain dental radiography certification through military service.

Accredited Dental Assistant Schools in Montana

Montana has two CODA-accredited programs for dental assisting:

Great Falls College, Montana State University, Great Falls

Great Falls offers a 44-credit certificate program in dental assisting with the option to take some courses online.

Salish Kootenai College, Pablo

Salish Kootenai College, Pablo

At Salish Kootenai, you can choose from a dental assisting endorsement with 23 credit hours and a certificate program with 52 credits.

If you cannot attend one of these on-campus programs, consider an online dental assistant school like Penn Foster

How Long Does it Take to Become a Dental Assistant?

Most programs for dental assistance take a year to complete. Montana schools do not offer a degree program in dental assisting, which would take two years. If you choose to start with training on the job, you can begin working immediately.

Which Type of Dental Assistant Should I Become?

Montana allows for multiple pathways to becoming a dental assistant, so you have options.

The quickest way to get into this career is to find a dentist to hire and train you as a dental auxiliary.

Becoming a CDA takes a little more time but has several benefits:

  • Many dentists prefer to hire CDAs.
  • You can earn a higher salary as a CDA.
  • With certification, you can work more independently in the dental office.
  • It is easier to relocate to another state if you have this nationally recognized certification.

One significant benefit of completing dental assistant school is that the credential can help you become a dental hygienist later. Many schools offer bridge programs to help you transition to this more lucrative career with more responsibilities.

Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)

The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) is a non-profit organization that provides certification for dental assistants.

To become certified, you must pass the DANB exam, which has three components: general chairside assisting, radiation health and safety, and infection control.

You can apply for Certification Maintenance (CM) every three years to keep your certification active.

DANB certification is not required in Montana but may be preferred by some employers.

Career Outlook in Dental Assisting

Growth is strong right now for dental assistants. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports 11% growth in the industry, which is much faster than average job growth. This projection is for 2020 through 2030.

According to Montana, the state is seeing even faster growth than the national average. Projections for the state indicate positions for dental assistants will grow by nearly 15% between 2020 and 2030. Expect to see more than 170 open positions each year.

Salaries for Dental Assistants

The median annual salary for dental assistants in the U.S. is $41,180. The median hourly rate is $19.80. Dental assistants earning the most make more than $58,000 per year.

You can earn more with certification and years of experience. The average annual wage for Montana dental assistants is between $19,370 and $37,410. 

Finding a Job as a Dental Assistant in Montana

As a dental assistant, you will most likely work in private dental practice. Other opportunities include government agencies, community clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes.

These are some recent job listings in the state:

  • Certified Dental Assistant, Silvercreek Family Dentistry, Butte, $15 to $22 per hour
  • Dental assistant, Moos Family Dental, Bozeman, $18 to $22 per hour
  • Dental assistant, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Polson, $14.75 to $19.16 per hour
  • Pediatric dental assistant, Bridger Children’s Dentistry, Bozeman, $17 to $24 per hour

Working as a dental assistant can be so rewarding. It allows you to dive right in with patients, making a difference in their lives daily. And, this career does not require a four-year or even two-year degree in Montana. Get started now, and you could be working and earning in a year or less.


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