Dental Assistant Training and Certification

Get your dental assistant training and earn your certification.

Dental Assistant Training: Time to Completion

A majority of academic dental assistant training programs take 9 to 11 months to complete. Graduates of these programs usually receive certificates. Some schools offer accelerated dental assistant training, part-time education programs, distance learning or online education options.


Dental Assistant Certification

You can get a formal dental assistant training at any of the following institutions:

  • Community colleges
  • Dental schools
  • Technical institutes
  • Universities
  • Vocational schools

In order to become certified, dental assistants must pass an examination that evaluates their knowledge. Most dental assistants who choose to become nationally certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

The Certified Dental Assistant exam is approximately 4 hours long and consists of 320 test questions. On a scale of 100 to 900 available points, test-takers must pass with a score of 400 or better, which they earn by completing 3 test sections:

  • General chairside test – 120 questions
  • Radiation health and safety – 100 questions
  • Infection control test – 100 questions


Formal Dental Assistant Training vs. On-the-Job Training

Dental assistants are eligible to take the CDA examination if they have completed a dental assistant training program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Individuals who have been trained on the job or have graduated from non-accredited programs are eligible to take the national certification examination after they have completed two years of full-time work experience as dental assistants.

Some states also recognize passage of components of the CDA examination, such as the Radiation Health and Safety examination or the Infection Control examination, for licensing and regulatory purposes.


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