Dental Assistant Programs: Degrees, Certificates & Diplomas You Should Know

Take a look at your dental assisting degree options and find other school information.

What degree levels are available?

The degree levels available in the dental assisting field vary by job title; dental hygienists often require a higher degree than dental assistants or technicians.

The upside is there’s always room for advancement if you’re willing to further your education.

Fortunately, there are a variety of paths to becoming a dental assistant, so you’ll be able to find one that suits your schedule and financial situation.

Dental Assisting Certificate or Diploma: Certificate and diploma programs generally prepare you to start your dental assistant career after about nine to 11 months of study. You’ll find these programs at career colleges and community colleges. If you want to enter the job field quickly, career college programs often have a faster time to completion.

Associate’s Degree: Associate’s degree programs in dental assisting last two years and provide other general education curriculum. Both career colleges and community colleges offer associate’s degree programs. If you’re planning on advancing your education later in your career, the credits you earn while in your associate’s program will count toward earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

What will I learn in my courses?

Dental assistants need to know everything from office administration to chair side assisting. A good school will give you all the necessary skills you will need to begin your dental assistant career. You can also find programs that will provide you some practical experience before entering the workforce. Courses vary by program, but some subjects that dental technicians will study include:

  • Dental anatomy
  • Dental ceramics
  • Dentures
  • Computer skills
  • Art-related classes (contouring, molding, waxing)

In a dental assistant or dental hygienist program, your course list will revolve more around learning skills that will be applicable in a dentist’s office. These courses might include:

  • Dental hygiene
  • Periodontal diseases
  • Using and caring for dental tools
  • Computer skills
  • Dental office management
  • Taking and developing X-rays

Outside of basic classes like these, the courses in a dental hygienist program versus a dental assistant program will focus on different skills, since the two jobs have some differing responsibilities.

What accreditation is there for my program?

There are several important reasons to attend an accredited dental assistant school. Accreditation serves the following purposes:

  • Assuring quality programs
  • Easing transfer of credits among schools
  • Providing access to federal financial aid
  • Creating employer confidence

The agency responsible for accrediting dental assistant schools and deciding whether or not they meet the standards for accreditation is the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association.

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