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Online Dental Assistant Training Programs

Online dental assistant training programs are typically offered in a hybrid format and are available at several different levels. Explore different training program options, common courses, and career information for dental assistants.

Best Online Dental Assistant Training Programs

Online dental assistant training programs help prepare students to become clinical and/or administrative dental assistants. Some of the best online programs may have low costs (less than $2,500), help prepare students for certification exams in the field, and/or include hands-on learning experiences. Compare and contrast some of the top online dental assisting programs here.

1. William Paterson University of New Jersey

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Wayne, NJ$13,06090%

William Paterson University of New Jersey offers an online course in dental assisting that covers both clinical and administrative assisting. Students who complete the program are eligible to take the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) exam in radiation health and safety (RHS) and the DANB in infection control exam (ICE). The DANB-RHS exam helps qualify students to perform dental radiography in many states. The program is open enrollment and costs about $1,699.

2. Rutgers University-New Brunswick

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
New Brunswick, NJ$14,97469%

Through its Center for Continuing Professional Development, Rutgers University has an online course in administrative dental assistant. The program is self-paced, requires 150 hours, and is available to students within 5 to 7 business days after registration. The program costs $2,285 and includes hands-on training in DENTRIX G4 software, a common program used in the field.

3. University of Georgia

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Athens, GA$11,83097%

The University of Georgia also offers an online administrative dental assistant program that allows students to start at any time. The program requires 150 hours, but can also count as 15 continuing education units (CEUs). The program costs $1,795 and that fee includes all textbooks. Students in the program learn about patient billing, scheduling, accounts receivable, and more.

4. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Indianapolis, IN$9,46588%

Through the Indiana University School of Dentistry, IUPUI offers an online certificate in dental assisting. The program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation and helps prepare students to take the 3 required DANB exams needed to become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA). The program is full-time, totals 30 credits, and can be completed in 2 semesters. Students in the program must complete exams, labs, and preclinical experiences in community dental offices.

5. Lake Area Technical Institute

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Watertown, SD$5,33292%

Lake Area Technical Institute has an online diploma or associate's degree program in dental assisting. The diploma program takes 5 semesters to finish, while the associate's degree takes 7 semesters and both programs are designed for part-time students. Students take courses online but must complete on-campus lab requirements and do 300 hours of clinical experience.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6Texarkana CollegeTexarkana, TX$3,53288%
7Eastern Iowa Community College DistrictDavenport, IA$5,18486%
8Hudson Valley Community CollegeTroy, NY$5,81280%
9Madison Area Technical CollegeMadison, WI$4,40761%
10Monroe Community CollegeRochester, NY$5,33685%

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Online Dental Assisting Program Overviews

Online training programs for aspiring dental assistants are available at the certificate, diploma, and associate's degree level, but certificate and diploma programs are generally more common than associate's degree programs in the field. Most of these programs are full-time, but some may be offered in a part-time format. Compare an overview of each kind of training program below.

  • Certificate- Certificate programs in dental assisting typically have the least amount of credits, with some certificate programs requiring around 27 to 30 credits and/or 150 hours of work. Some certificate programs may offer pathways to additional certifications, like the Caries Prevention or Coronal Polishing certificates.
  • Diploma- Some diploma programs in dental assisting may require as many as 48 credits. Some diploma programs may only be offered in a part-time format, and most are hybrid programs and require in-person clinical experiences.
  • Associate's Degree- Associate's degree programs in dental assisting are the longest programs and may require around 60 credits. Some associate's degree programs may offer an optional diploma exit point for students who do not wish to continue their studies. These programs may be competitive and generally conclude with an internship experience.

Some online training programs in dental assisting may focus on administrative assisting, while other programs include both administrative and clinical training. These programs usually help prepare students for the DANB exams required to become a CDA or Licensed Registered Dental Assistant (RDA).

Many of these programs are offered in a hybrid format, where students do coursework online, but may need to complete some in-person requirements. The online portion of the training program may be self-paced or follow a course schedule. Learn more about the different courses for these training programs next.

Common Courses

Students should be aware that some associate's degree programs may have prerequisite requirements that need to be completed before they can apply to the dental assisting program. These general education courses may include courses in areas like English, math and communications.

Dental assisting courses may vary from program to program. However, many of the traditional courses for these programs can be completed fully online and may cover a range of topics including:

  • Oral pathology
  • Dental materials
  • Dental terminology
  • Pharmacology
  • Communications
  • Clinical skills
  • Oral health
  • Preventative dentistry and nutrition

Oral Pathology

Students typically take a course that explores common oral diseases and different emergencies they may see in a dental office. These courses may be combined with topics in oral anatomy and/or physiology.

Dental Materials

Most programs include at least 2 courses on dental materials. The first course in dental materials may provide students with an overview of different dental materials and how assistants may use them. The second course builds upon the first course and both sections usually include a lab.

Preventative Dentistry

Courses in preventative dentistry usually include topics in nutrition and how proper nutrition plays a role in good oral health. These courses may include clinical experiences and/or look at topics like plaque control and periodontal disease.

Program Length

Dental assistant training programs vary in length. Some of these training courses are self-paced and require students to complete 150 hours of work. Diploma programs may take 4 months, while certificate programs may take about 1 year, and associate's degree programs may take about 2 years. Some programs may also require hands-on learning experiences and/or clinical experiences in the form of an internship, but these clinical hours are usually done within the traditional length of the program.

Accreditation for Dental Assistant Programs

Students wishing to become a dental assistant should look for dental assistant training programs that are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). This group is a part of the American Dental Association; it ensures the quality of academic programs in the field of dentistry. Graduates of accredited programs are eligible to sit for the DANB certification exams. Getting financial aid such as loans, grants and scholarships may be dependent on attending an accredited program.

Cost of Dental Assistant Programs

The cost of dental assistant training programs varies by the type of program and the institution. Some programs, usually courses or certificate programs, can be completed for less than $2,500. The longer the program, however, the more the program usually costs. For example, an associate's degree in dental assisting that takes 2 years and may cost more than $10,000.

When considering the cost of a dental assisting program, students should also research any additional fees, such as the cost of books, technology fees, and/or tool kits needed for clinical work. Other factors to consider include the technical requirements for online courses. Some programs may require students to meet specific hardware and/or software requirements.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Opportunities

Most dental assistant students are eligible to apply for financial aid by filling out their FAFSA. However, some schools may not allow pre-dental assistant students to collect financial aid until they are accepted into a program. After filling out their FAFSA, students may be eligible for loans or grants to help pay for their schooling.

Students may also wish to consider applying for outside scholarships, or any scholarships that individual institutions may offer. Some schools and/or dentistry-related organizations may even offer scholarships specifically for students in dental assisting programs. For example, students may be eligible to compete for the Procter & Gamble Oral-B Dental Professional Scholarship or students in Iowa can compete for scholarships from the Iowa Dental Association.

There are also professional organizations, such as the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) that offer scholarships such as:

  • ADAA Merit Scholar Award
  • Juliette A. Southard Scholarship
  • ADAA President's Award of Excellence
  • ADAA Student Achievement Award

Career Information for Dental Assistants

Dental assistants are usually full-time professionals who work closely with dentists and dental hygienists. They typically work in the offices of dentists and may need to work some evenings and/or weekends. They are required to wear the necessary protective gear (ie glasses, gloves, protective clothing) and follow all safety procedures to minimize the spread of disease and/or protect from other potentially harmful factors, like radiation.

Job duties for dental assistants vary by state and place of employment, but many dental assistants help provide basic patient care and perform an array of administrative duties. Many dental assistants still need some on-the-job training in addition to their formal education to learn their specific duties within an office. In general, dental assistants are there to help dentists and dental hygienists treat patients. This may require them to perform duties such as:

  • Recording patients' medical histories
  • Explaining procedures to patients
  • Setting up work areas for different procedures
  • Sterilizing dental equipment
  • Maintaining dental records
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Collecting payments for procedures
  • Using suction hoses or other equipment during procedures
  • Handing tools to dentists or hygienists
  • Taking impressions or performing other lab tasks

Depending on their training, some dental assistants may also be qualified to take x-rays of patients. This requires them to protect the patient and themselves with the appropriate equipment, placing the film for x-rays, and then processing the x-ray images.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental assistants had a job outlook of 11% from 2018 to 2028. This outlook is much faster than the national average and may be attributed to the growth of dental practices as we further understand the need for good oral health. Dentists may like having dental assistants to help increase the efficiency of their practices.

The BLS also reported that the average salary for dental assistants was $39,770 in 2018. The highest paying industry for dental assistants in 2018 was nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) where dental assistants made an average salary of $44,730. However, the highest level of employment for these professionals was in the offices of dentists, where the average salary was $39,770. The highest paying states where dental assistants made the highest average salary in 2018 included Minnesota ($49,880), the District of Columbia ($49,220), and New Hampshire ($48,760).

Professional Certification/Licensure

Most states do not require entry-level dental assistants to have a license, but licensure/certification may be required for career advancement and/or to perform specific job duties. For example, depending on the state, dental assistants may need certification to specialize or perform job duties concerning x-rays and infectious diseases.

Typically, certification, registration, and/or licensure comes from the DANB. The DANB offers a variety of exams, including some state-specific exams, and certifications for dental assistants that usually require applicants to have a high school diploma or graduate from an accredited dental assistant program and complete the necessary work experience. The DANB also requires applicants to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. Students can pursue certifications like CDA, Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA), or National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) from the DANB.

Some states also offer their own certifications and/or exams through the DANB. For example, the state of New York allows students to become an RDA after passing the New York State Professional Dental Assisting (NYPDA) Examination, Radiation Health & Safety (RHS) Exam, and Infection Control Exam (ICE), which are all still administered by the DANB.

How to Advance Your Career

Outside of earning certification, licensure, or registration in the field of dental assisting, dental assistants may choose to advance their career by becoming a dental hygienist. According to the BLS, dental hygienists made an average salary of $75,500 in 2018, which is considerably higher than the average salary of dental assistants the same year.

Dental hygienists also usually work in offices of dentists, but take on more responsibilities and perform more patient care than dental assistants. Dental hygienists are responsible for examining patients' oral health and helping to educate them on proper oral care. These professionals help clean teeth, apply protective measures to teeth (such as sealants), and let dentists know what is going on in a patient's mouth.

To become dental hygienists, dental assistants would need to complete at least an associate's degree in dental hygiene. Associate's degree programs in the field are usually 3 years in length, but some students may also choose to pursue a 4-year bachelor's degree in the field. After finishing their formal education, dental hygienists must obtain state licensure to practice in a particular state. Usually, licensure requires passing clinical exams and a written exam. Many employers also require dental hygienists to be CPR-certified.