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Dental Assisting Education Programs in New York

Becoming a dental assistant requires the fulfillment of several essential steps. If you are interested in this career, you will need to complete your prerequisites, apply to a dental assistant program and graduate. You will also need to acquire a license to practice in New York State.

The Duties of a Dental Assistant

Dental assistants work under the supervision of a licensed dentist to perform a variety of dental procedures. They assist dentists with dental procedures, sterilize instruments, instruct patients, and help with dental x-rays. In addition, dental assistants often provide administrative assistance to a dental practice with organizational tasks such as tracking and ordering supplies and equipment.

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Dental Assistant Employment Rates in New York State

New York State employed a total of 20,690 dental assistants in 2018, with a projected 5,320 additional job positions predicted to open by the year 2028. The region with the most significant growth over the ten-year period is the Finger Lakes region, with a projected 31.2 percent increase in positions. The least amount of growth is anticipated in the Southern Tier, which can expect an 18.9 percent growth. The New York State Department of Labor lists the employment prospects in this career as “very favorable.”

Licensing and Certification

If you want to work as a dental assistant in New York, your will need to become licensed as a Registered Dental Assistant through the New York State Office of the Professions. Applicants for licensing must be at least 18 years of age, have taken a dental assisting examination through an acceptable organization and meet the educational requirements for the career. These requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent, plus one of the following:

  • The completion of an approved one-year dental assistant program through a degree-granting organization, which includes at least 200 hours of clinical experience
  • An approved non-degree equivalent program in dental assisting, not granted by a professional association or organization
  • An acceptable alternate course of study, with at least 1000 hours of clinical experience, approved by a degree-granting institution or by the board of cooperative education services

The most prevalent and accepted certification for dental assistants is the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) accreditation. This credential is awarded through the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB) and consists of three component exams:

  • General Chairside Assisting (GC)
  • Radiation Health and Safety (RHS)
  • Infection Control (ICE)

Applicants for the CDA certification will need to be certified in CPR, BLS or ACLS through a hands-on program and have completed one of the following:

Aside from examination being a prerequisite for licensing, dental assistants who become certified make more money and have more opportunity for career advancement than their unlicensed, non-certified peers. However, it is essential to remember that while other states may have provisions for unlicensed dental assistants, New York does not. In fact, New York state law makes it a felony offense to perform any procedures that are covered under a registered dental assistant’s scope of practice without a license. As such, certification is necessary if you plan to practice in the state.

Attending a Dental Assistant Program in New York

Dental assistants need to acquire a specific set of skills if they plan to perform the job with competence. Training will take a commitment to learn the job both in classes and in clinical practice. Dental assistants will learn many of the following procedures during their training period:

  • How to take medical histories
  • How to set up the proper tools for a procedure
  • How to sterilize equipment
  • How to select and pre-fit provisional crowns
  • How to remove orthodontic archwires
  • How to place and remove rubber dams
  • How to take tooth impressions for study or diagnostic casts
  • How to take impressions for space maintainers, occlusal guards and orthodontic appliances
  • How to remove periodontal dressings
  • How to place and remove temporary separating devices
  • How to remove temporary cement
  • How to place and remove orthodontic ligatures
  • How to apply topical anticarcinogenic and desensitizing agents to the teeth
  • How to place and remove matrix bands
  • Cavity classification and charting
  • How to take dental x-rays

In addition, students learn dental terminology and anatomy, dental law and ethics, pharmacology, infection control, and OSHA regulations.

To attain a license in New York, you must attend a program that has been approved by the New York State Department of Education. Acceptable programs include:

For the most part, dental assistant programs take one year to complete, and graduates earn a certificate. However, there are exceptions, and prospective dental assistants may choose to participate in a shorter program like Penn foster’s dental assistant training, which takes four months to complete. It is also possible to train on the job. If you select this path, you will want to ensure you are meeting the requirements for New York State license. Those who have the resources to train for longer may want to consider taking a two-year program to become a dental hygienist.

Financial Aid for Dental Students

Students who attend a university or trade school in New York may apply for financial aid through various sources. In the college listings below, you will find dental assistant schools that accept financial aid in New York. You can get started by filling out a FAFSA form online, but be sure to check in with the office of financial assistance at the institution you plan to attend to ensure you haven’t missed out on any grants for which you may qualify. In addition, you can apply for scholarships through the American Student Dental Association, the America Dental Education Association or the American Dental Assistants Association

Salaries for New York Dental Assistants

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental assistants in New York made an average annual salary of $43,150 in 2020. Wages in the state ranged from $29,350 for the lowest-paid assistants to $59,530 for top earners in the field. Industries where dental hygienists made the highest salaries include state government organizations, nursing care facilities, ambulatory care centers, management companies and general hospitals.

Dental Assistant Career Path Potential

So, once you have earned your certification, obtained accreditation and become licensed, what are your prospects as a dental assistant? That depends on your goals and what career opportunities are available in your area, be it New York City, Buffalo or Long Island.

When you work in a dental practice, you work with dentists and dental hygienists, both of whom undergo a higher level of training and education. Although dentists have many more years of study than a dental assistant, the journey from a dental assistant to a dental hygienist is only one additional year of training. And it’s a very worthwhile endeavor. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2020 average salary for dental hygienists in New York was a whopping $33,740 higher than dental assistant salaries.

Working as a dental assistant can be an extraordinarily fulfilling or rewarding career for anyone who enjoys caring for others. It can also be an excellent jumping-off point for more ambitious career advancements. Whatever path you choose towards building your career, beginning as a dental assistant is a role with much potential for your future.  


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