Dental Assisting Degrees

Dental assistants provide dental support services, including aiding the dentist during procedures, sterilizing instruments and taking X-rays. Find out what courses are included in an associate's degree program, and learn about state licensing and professional certification standards. Schools offering Dental Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Dental Assisting Degree Programs Are Available?

Dental assisting degree programs can primarily be found at community and technical colleges and confer an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science. You can usually complete the courses and practicums in less than two years. Associate's degree programs are the highest level of education offered for dental assistants.

You won't be able to find any fully online programs in this field since they require you to participate in clinical work. Hands-on experience is necessary for training with dental instrument sterilization, X-ray machine imaging, radiology work and many dental procedures. However, some schools might offer the required general education courses in an online, hybrid or distance learning format.

Degree TypesAssociate of Science or Associate of Applied Science
Online Availability Fully online programs not available due to hands-on training
Common CoursesNutrition, instrumentation, dental anatomy, dental assistant pharmacology, preventative dentistry
Licensure & CertificationRequirements vary by state; national certification can be obtained from the Dental Assisting National Board

What Courses Can I Expect to Take?

These programs teach you how to identify dentistry instruments and perform certain dental procedures. By the end of the program, you should also know how to maintain records and teach patients correct brushing and flossing techniques. You can expect to take basic courses in dental anatomy, nutrition, instrumentation and microbiology. Some specific course topics include chairside procedures, preventative dentistry, dental assistant pharmacology, radiology and dental office emergencies. In addition to your classroom learning, you'll practice procedures in lab practicums, and you could participate in an internship or clinical rotations.

Do I Need Licensure or Certification?

Depending on the state you plan on working in, you might be required to apply for licensure or register with the state. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) explains that there are several states that require you to graduate from a program accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA) and pass an exam ( Some states also require you to earn national certification before obtaining your license.

Certification is offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Completing the DANB certification requirements awards you with the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) designation. To earn certification, you're required to complete a program that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). The certification exam tests your knowledge of topics in radiation safety, infection control and general chairside procedures. To qualify, you'll also need to be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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