How Long Does it Take to Become a Dental Assistant?

Dental Assistant Career Information

dental assistant is a professional who supports the operations of a dental office by performing administrative and clinical duties, such as scheduling appointments, preparing patients, sterilizing instruments, or taking x-rays. The career outlook for dental assistants is positive, with a projected employment growth of 7% from 2019 to 2029 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are interested in a dental assisting career, a post-secondary training program can take anywhere from 9 to 11 months to complete, depending on which educational path you choose. For a more detailed explanation of the educational requirements, let’s take a closer look below.

How Long Does It Take to Be a Dental Assistant?

Dental Assistant Education Requirements

High School/GED

Finishing high school takes four years while completing a GED certificate takes about three months. High school students interested in a dental assisting career might want to consider taking classes in biology, chemistry, and anatomy.

On-the-Job Training

Some choose to learn the job of a dental assistant by training on the job. Under the guidance of an experienced dental assistant, dental hygienist or dentist, these trainees learn dental terminology, names of instruments, daily tasks, scheduling appointments, filing patient records, interacting with patients, and other typical dental office activities. How long it takes to complete such on-the-job training depends on the dental office.

Postsecondary Education

Most students choose to enroll in a dental assistant training program at a postsecondary institution, such as vocational school or a community college. These training programs normally take anywhere from 9 to 11 months, depending on whether you obtain a certificate, diploma, or associate degree. The curriculum consists of both classroom lectures and hands-on training in a clinical setting. The dental assisting education entails classes on oral anatomy, dental office administration, dental materials, and dental radiography. Unlike vocational training programs, community college programs also include general education classes like English or Math.For example, Delta Technical College (DTC) offers a Dental Assisting Program that provides students entry-level theory and hands-on training in both basic and routine clinical and office tasks. This program equips the dental assistant student with the skills required to perform in a clinical, laboratory or office setting.


Certification and licensing requirements can differ from state to state. Some states require dental assistants to be certified, so it is important for dental assistants to check with the dental board of the state in which they wish to work. If certification is needed, it is typically a Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) certification. How much time it takes to become certified is contingent upon the type of certification you seek. While some certifications can be obtained as a student or recent graduate of a dental assisting program, others require a minimum amount of relevant work experience.

How Long is Dental Assistant School? 

Going to school for dental assisting is a popular choice for those who want to enter this field. Postsecondary allied health training programs allow students to learn about the job of a dental assistant in depth. Delta Technical College (DTC) students receive hands-on training that includes performing hands-on laboratory work and the application of dental assistant skills across a wide range of settings. Yet, dental assisting programs vary in length, depending on whether you attend a vocational school or community college.

Vocational School

Vocational dental assisting programs can usually be completed in less than a year. The Delta Technical College (DTC) dental assistant program is nine months. The program includes classes on infection control, restorative dentistry, preventative dentistry, dental radiology, dental office administration, dental specialties, and prosthodontics. Delta Tech’s dental assisting program also covers employment preparation and includes an externship. Students graduate with a diploma.

Community College

Dental assisting programs at community colleges typically last about two years. Students not only take numerous dental assisting classes, but they also have to enroll in general education courses. Some community college students may take longer than two years, depending on their individual schedule and progress. Community colleges offer varying academic degrees. Depending on the student’s course of study and the individual school’s offerings, upon graduation a student could earn an associate’s degree, diploma, certificate or even a bachelor’s degree.

How Do I Get Certified as a Dental Assistant?

Dental assistants undertake a variety of job duties, although the scope of their responsibilities may differ depending on the dental office or the state in which they work. The DANB offers five different certifications for dental assistants. Industry bodies like the American Dental Association or American Medical Technologists also provide credentials for dental assistants.

How to be a Dental Assistant in Mississippi

In Mississippi, dental assistants must meet a number of state-specific requirements if they seek to operate dental x-ray equipment. They must hold a DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification or successfully complete a Mississippi Board-approved radiology seminar and exam within 90 days prior to application. See for the full list of requirements.Delta Technical College (DTC) students at the Ridgeland, MS campus will sit for the DANB Radiology Health & Safety (RHS) and the Infection Control Exam (ICE), which are two of the three tests that are required for a dental assistant certification. Delta Tech also offers a Dental Radiology Seminar to provide students with the fundamental principles of dental radiology and provide students dental x-ray certification. Learn more about dental assistant certification in our “How to become a dental assistant” guide.Some certifications, especially those for advanced duties or positions, have minimum work experience requirements. Hence, it can take a few years until dental assistants qualify for these particular certifications. Other credentials solely have educational requirements and may be obtained while enrolled in a dental assisting program or shortly after graduation.RELATED TOPIC

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