A certified dental assistant helps the dental office by increasing the efficiency in the day-to-day operations, performing medical procedures, as well as taking on administrative tasks. A dental assistant’s responsibilities will vary by state, and the particular dental office.

Becoming a Dental Assistant

First you need to check to see if your state requires you to graduate from an accredited program and pass a state exam. Because, then that’s the path you’ll take. There are a few different types of programs you can take at school to prepare you for the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

Where to find a program

  • You can find dental assistant programs at medical trade schools and tech colleges where you can graduate with a certificate or a diploma. These programs take about 1 year to finish.
  • Some colleges may offer associate’s degrees in dental assisting and those programs take about 2 years to complete.

Find a local dental assistant school.

In the states where no formal education is required, you can learn dental assisting through on-the-job training where you’ll learn instrument names, how to complete daily tasks, bedside manner, and even some administrative activities that keep the dental office running smoothly.

General Steps to Take When Becoming a Dental Assistant

  • Get your high school diploma or GED.
  • Enroll in a dental assistant program or complete an externship with hands-on training.
  • Complete your state’s licensing requirements.
  • Decide if you want to specialize in areas such as an orthodontist dental assistant, preventative functions, or restorative functions, and get certified.

You should have excellent communication and interpersonal skills along with technical knowledge and a great eye for detail. Whether you’re performing tasks requested by the dentist or assisting with a patient, you’ll be considered a quality dental professional and an invaluable member of a dental staff.

Dental Assistant Certification Requirements

If your state requires it, before you’re even eligible for certification you have to either graduate from an accredited program or complete the state required amount of on-the-job training. You also need to be current with your CPR certification. Once all those requirements are met, you have to pass the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

Dental Assistant Salary

The mean annual wage for dental assistants was $44,710 in 2022. The lowest 10% made close to $31,450, and the top 10% earned close to $59,200. Keep in mind, your salary may look different depending on factors such as where you work, what state you live in, and the amount of experience you have.

Salary info updated in May of 2023.