Become a Dental Assistant

How to become a dental assistant

It’s easy to see why dental assisting is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States. Demand for dental assistants has never been higher. The position offers plenty of opportunities to grow. Plus, a career in dental assisting is fulfilling, flexible and full of variety.

Requirements

Look up the requirements in your state to find out what you need to do to become a dental assistant.

View state requirements

Education

Find dental assisting schools and look up the programs in your area to see what’s near you.

Find a dental assisting program

Certification

Earning DANB certification can propel your dental assisting career to new levels.

Why earn certification?

What does a dental assistant do?

The typical day of dental assistant often involves a variety of activities, such as greeting and seating patients, preparing and sterilizing the room and instruments for treatment, taking dental radiographs, assisting the dentist with procedures, and giving patients post-treatment care instructions. Most dental assistants work in a general dental practice, but if you work in a specialty practice, you may have the opportunity to perform more specific and complex duties.

For more details about a dental assistant’s duties, you’ll want to check your state’s dental assisting requirements. Many states have different levels for dental assistants and specify which duties dental assistants are allowed to perform at each level.

View state requirements

Why become a dental assistant?

Dental assisting is a rewarding career, especially if you are interested in health and science and enjoy helping people. As a dental assistant, you’ll have contact with every patient who walks into your practice, whether it’s by scheduling appointments, providing care to them during the appointment, or giving them guidance and education following their treatment. Dental assistants love helping patients feel more comfortable during their visit, as well as helping them lead healthier, happier lives.

Where do dental assistants work?

Most dental assistants work full-time in private dental practices, although many dental assistants work part-time. Some dental assistants split their time between more than one office or prefer to work as a temp wherever they might be needed. Dental assisting is a great career if you’re looking for flexible or part-time hours.

View dental assistant jobs

How long does it take to become a dental assistant?

There is no one answer to this question, since it depends on whether you plan to attend a dental assisting program or if you prefer to learn on the job. Many dental practices are willing to hire a dental assistant with minimal experience and provide training while they begin to work.

However, some dental practices prefer to hire dental assistants with some education and training, for example, so they can take dental radiographs, a very common and important duty many dental assistants perform.

Some dental assisting programs are relatively short, so you can complete them in a few weeks. Other dental assisting programs are longer, usually about 6 to 9 months. The benefit to completing a longer dental assisting program is that you have more knowledge you can bring to the job. Dental assistants also report that having an educational background helps boost their confidence when interacting with patients and their dental colleagues. In some states, you’ll need to complete educational requirements or pass a test to perform certain duties. View dental assisting requirements.

After you’ve completed your education and gained some experience, earning dental assistant certification and having credentials after your name may be your next move. Many dental assistants report that they feel a strong sense of pride in holding national certification. Learn about DANB certification.

DANB exams and certifications

Many states recognize DANB exams and certifications as part of the requirements to become a dental assistant.
  • Radiation Health and Safety

    DANB’s Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) exam is recognized or required in many states. Learn about...
  • Infection Control

    DANB’s Infection Control (ICE) exam is a component exam of several DANB certifications and is...
  • RHS/ICE

    DANB’s RHS and ICE exams are recognized or required in many states. Learn about DANB’s RHS and ICE...
  • Certified Dental Assistant

    Passing the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam is a milestone achievement. Learn about the exam...