The Ultimate Guide: How to Become a Dental Assistant

Dec 29, 2021

How to become a dental assistant?

Well, if you’re organized, caring, and have an interest in the dental field, you should consider becoming a dental assistant. This growing field promises many opportunities for anyone with the proper skills. This stable and fulfilling career could be a promising career, but how do you get started?


When you’re just starting out on your dental assisting journey, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. How do you become a dental assistant? How do you get a job as a dental assistant? Is dental assisting even the right career for you?


In this Ultimate Guide on how to become a dental assistant, we’re going to answer all these questions and more!


Why Consider Becoming a Dental Assistant

Job Prospects

Dental assisting is a growing career field, with almost 60,000 new jobs in the next 10 years. This equates to 20% growth and very good job security. As such an in-demand career, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a job with competitive pay and good benefits.

Helping and Meeting People

What makes the job so fulfilling, however, is the ability to help people. If you’re compassionate and a people-person, one of the best aspects of a career in dental assisting is the meeting and getting to know patients.


You can also rest easy knowing you spend every day helping people without an expensive and time-consuming medical degree. Or—if you’re interested in pursuing a more in-depth dental degree—working as a dental assistant will give you priceless experience while saving up money.

Affordable Education

Speaking of money, working as a dental assistant is one of the most affordable ways to get a career in the healthcare industry. Unlike dental hygienists, there’s more flexible education requirements for medical assistants.


That being said, post-secondary education and earning a certification can give you a huge advantage in the job market. Employers prefer already-certified hires because they don’t require as much training. Even then, medical assisting programs are generally cheaper than nursing degrees and always cheaper than medical school.

Step One in How to Become a Dental Assistant: Study at a Technical College

Once you’ve decided to pursue a degree in medical assisting, the first step is to attend a technical college. Education and certification requirements for a career in medical assisting vary from state to state, but a certification will give you a leg up.

Finding the Right School

First, you need to find the right school for you. Alongside price and class size considerations, you also need to think about accreditation, program length, and certification exam preparation.


Accreditation—though not the most obvious requirement—is one of the most important. An accredited program has met all your state’s requirements for a dental assisting program. If you attend an unaccredited program, employers won’t consider your degree valid and it won’t count towards certification prerequisites. If your state requires certification, then your career will be off to a false start.


Program length is also an important factor. Medical assisting programs usually take between nine months and two years to complete. Ideally, you want a program with a flexible schedule so you can take as much or as little time as you need. 


You should also make sure the curriculum is complete. Your prospective program should include courses covering business, communication, and basic bookkeeping alongside dental terminology, oral anatomy and physiology, and the ins-and-outs of the dental healthcare system.


Finally, you should make sure your school has a good reputation for preparing students for their certification exams. To find this information, you should look up student reviews and figure out what former students have to say about the program.

Attend Your Classes

Once you find the right program for you, you need to make sure you attend all your classes and pay close attention. Everything you learn in your medical assisting courses will directly pertain to your job. The hands-on experience you’ll earn from your program is invaluable.


Step Two in How to Become a Dental Assistant: Earn Your Certification

Once you’ve completed your program, you’ll need to get a license through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Though many states don’t require a license for entry-level dental assisting positions, the license will show employers you have experience and need minimal training. For someone who’s just starting out as a dental assistant, this will give you a serious advantage. Moreover, certifications are necessary for specializations. 


The licensing process involves taking an exam after graduating from an accredited program or having a certain amount of work experience. The DANB exam consists of three parts: the General Chairside Assisting (GC) exam, the Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) exam, and the Infection Control (ICE) exam. You’ll need to pass this exam with a cumulative score 400 (out of 900) in order to become certified.


Step Three in How to Become a Dental Assistant: Land Your First Job

After you get your certification, all that’s left is to find your job and start your dental assisting career. That being said, you’ll want to consider several factors when considering a job. 


The average yearly wage of a dental assistant is approximately $40,000. Though this number can vary from place to place, you should expect pay somewhere around that number. You should also be able to find a job with competitive benefits.

Where You’ll Work

Most dental assistants will work in the offices of dentists, but a few also work in hospitals, clinics, dental schools, or in public health settings. You can also choose between full-time or part-time work, and you might have the chance to work more flexible hours.

As a dental assistant, you can look forward to a stable and fulfilling career! To take the first step towards your dental assisting journey, check out Chattanooga College’s program! On our program page, you can learn more and schedule a no-obligation meeting with an advisor.

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