How to become a dental assisting educator

A teacher with a joyful expression, wearing a brown suit, holding a stack of books, and standing in front of a whiteboard

Dental assisting is a lifelong career for many people. Some spend several decades assisting chairside and enjoy every minute of it. But one of the great aspects of the profession is that it has many other pathways to explore if you’re seeking a new career direction. For example, many dental assistants have a passion for mentoring others and passing along the knowledge they’ve gained over the years. Becoming an educator can be a natural next step for these dental assistants.

The following guide outlines the steps and requirements for becoming a dental assisting instructor.

What does the job involve?

Dental assisting instructors typically work for community colleges, vocational-technical schools, or high school programs, giving students the knowledge and tools they need for an entry-level dental assistant position. Dental assistant instructor jobs can be full- or part-time. Many instructors who work part time continue to work as chairside dental assistants. As a dental assisting educator, you’ll be responsible for preparing the curriculum materials, delivering lectures, demonstrating skills in clinical settings, and giving students hands-on experience in the lab. Additionally, you’ll evaluate students’ performance, ensure a safe learning environment, monitor class attendance, and grade assignments.

Instructors often help their students find work opportunities. Many dental assisting programs require students to complete externships or internships, allowing them to obtain real clinical experience and see what a dental office environment is like. At the end of the semester or school year, instructors often provide guidance to students on the next steps in their careers, whether it’s helping them land an entry-level job or pursue another interest.


Having a high school diploma or GED is essential for becoming a dental assisting instructor, and an associate degree or higher is often preferred. It’s also mandatory to have experience as a dental assistant. Some institutions may require you to have a diploma or certificate from a CODA-accredited dental assisting program.

Holding Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification or a similar credential is often required because it demonstrates that you have a high level of competence in dental assisting. Additionally, it shows that you stay up to date on your dental assisting knowledge, as maintaining certification includes earning continuing education credits. Programs may also require you to obtain a teaching certificate or complete a course on teaching techniques, concepts, and methodologies.


There’s no universal standard for how much experience you need to become a dental assisting instructor, but you’ll need to master a variety of subject areas and clinical skills in order to teach effectively. You won’t just be educating students on basic dental terminology and anatomy; you’ll also instruct them on the ins and outs of chairside assisting, radiology, infection control, effective communication, procedures, and more.

For this reason, programs usually seek instructors with ample experience as a dental assistant. Some may require as few as two years of experience, while others want at least five. If you’ve worked in different specialties, such as orthodontics or oral surgery, that can also give you a leg up because you’ll have a wider base of knowledge from which to teach your students.

Additional skills and training

In addition to having work experience as a dental assistant, you need to have certain skills to succeed as an instructor. Many of these skills come naturally to dental assistants, such as a passion for helping others and excellent organization and planning abilities. You should also have strong written and verbal skills, be comfortable using online learning software, and know how to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Next steps

If you’re interested in becoming an educator, contact a local dental assisting program and see if you can shadow an instructor or observe a class. You could even reach out to your former teacher to see if you can sit in on their lecture or lab for a day. Immersing yourself in a classroom setting is often the best way to determine whether you want to pursue a career in education.

If you decide a teaching role is right for you, there are a variety of job boards where you can begin your search, such as Indeed, Google, and LinkedIn. Check the websites of vocational schools, high schools, and community colleges in your area to see if they have any available positions. You can also reach out to your professional network — whether it’s your former instructor, your dentist, or a fellow dental assistant — to see if they know of any teaching opportunities.

Read more: Educators inspire future dental assistants