Dental assistants are essential members of the dental team who work alongside dentists and hygienists to provide quality oral care to patients. They perform various tasks, including patient care, sterilization of dental instruments, taking X-rays, and managing patient records. Becoming a dental assistant is an attractive career option for those interested in the dental field and want to work in a profession that offers job stability, growth, and reasonable compensation. In this article, we’ll discuss how long it takes to become a dental assistant, the requirements, and the steps to follow.
Education and Training Requirements
To become a dental assistant, you must have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. However, many dental assistants prefer to attend a post-secondary program that provides formal education and training in dental assisting. These programs are available in community colleges, vocational schools, and technical institutes and typically take one to two years. Some programs also offer internships or externships, providing hands-on training in a dental office.
The curriculum of a dental assistant program typically includes courses in dental science, anatomy, medical terminology, dental procedures, and infection control. Students also learn to take X-rays, perform dental cleanings, and assist dentists during procedures. Some programs may also cover topics such as dental office management, patient communication, and basic computer skills.
Certification and Licensure
While certification isn’t a requirement to work as a dental assistant, many employers prefer to hire certified assistants. The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) offers the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential, which is recognized in most states. To be eligible for the CDA exam, candidates must have completed an accredited dental assisting program or have at least two years of on-the-job training. They must also pass a written and practical exam.
In some states, dental assistants are required to obtain licensure before they can work. Licensure requirements vary depending on the state but typically involve completing an accredited dental assisting program, passing a state exam, and meeting continuing education requirements.
Timeline for Becoming a Dental Assistant
The timeline for becoming a dental assistant varies depending on the educational path chosen. Here’s a breakdown of the various options:
- High School Diploma + On-The-Job Training: This option typically takes six months to one year. It involves finding a dental office willing to train you on the job. While this option may be the most affordable, it may not provide as much comprehensive training as a formal education program.
- Certificate Program: Certificate programs typically take six months to one year to complete. They offer comprehensive training in dental assisting and provide a certificate upon completion. While this option may be more expensive than on-the-job training, it provides formal education and training that can lead to better job opportunities and higher pay.
- Associate’s Degree: Associate’s degree programs in dental assisting typically take two years to complete. They provide a more comprehensive education in dental assisting and may include courses in general education, such as English and math. This option may be more expensive than a certificate program, but it provides a degree that may be useful for career advancement or further education.
Becoming a dental assistant is a rewarding career that offers job stability, growth, and good compensation. Whether you pursue on-the-job training, a certificate program, or an associate’s degree, the dental assisting field offers many personal and professional development opportunities. With the increasing demand for dental services, dental assistants are highly sought after, and the job outlook is excellent. So, if you are interested in the dental field and want to make a difference in people’s lives, consider becoming a dental assistant. It’s a decision that can lead to a fulfilling and satisfying career.
Start your career as a dental assistant with the help of Northwest Suburban College. We are a health sciences college that provides dental assistant certification in Rolling Meadows. With our program, you could complete your training and be prepared to pursue a rewarding dental assistant career in only 32 weeks, including eight weeks of hands-on training. Get in touch with us today!