How to Become a Dental Assistant: Education Requirements, Duties & More


Dental assistants play a critical role in any dentist’s office. Dental assistants help handle patient care and support a wide range of duties, including taking x-rays, managing records and scheduling appointments. 

If you’re interested in becoming a dental assistant, it’s important to know the responsibilities and education requirements.

How to become a dental assistant

To become a dental assistant, you may need to complete an accredited dental assistant program. From there, you might also need to earn a certification and/or license. Requirements for licensure vary by state. After that, it’s time to start your career. From start to finish, many dental assistant education programs require less than a year of training.

What education is required to become a dental assistant?

There are a number of career paths for dental assistants. While some states require dental assistants to have graduated from an accredited program and pass a licensing exam, others might not even ask for formal education credentials. High school students who have an interest in dental assisting should consider taking classes in biology, chemistry, and anatomy.

Delta Technical College offers an accredited Dental Assisting Program that can be completed in just nine months. 

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What licensing, certifications and registrations are necessary to become a dental assistant?

Depending on the route you take to becoming a dental assistant and which state you plan to practice in, you may need to complete a licensing or certification program. These programs improve your skill set and can potentially increase your employment opportunities as a dental assistant.

Dental assistant licenses and certifications

The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) issues certifications for dental assistants. In order to qualify for the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam, you must meet one of the following three criteria:

  1. Graduate from a CODA-accredited dental assisting or dental hygiene program AND current CPR from a DANB-accepted provider.

  2. High school graduate or equivalent AND a minimum of 3,500 hours of approved work experience AND current CPR certification from a DANB-accepted provider.

  3. Former DANB CDA status or graduate from a CODA-accredited DDS or DMD program or graduate from a dental degree program outside the U.S. or Canada AND current CPR from a DANB-accepted provider.

At Delta Technical College, Dental Assisting Program students at the Ridgeland, MS campus are required to take two of the three DANB (Dental Assisting National Board) certification exams: RHS (Radiology Health & Safety) and ICE (Infection Control Exam).

According to the DANB, a dental assistant in Mississippi may perform basic supportive dental procedures under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist. All dental assistants involved in direct patient care must be certified in CPR (within 180 days of employment). There are no other education or training requirements for this level of dental assisting in Mississippi.

How to become a registered dental assistant

American Medical Technologists (AMT) offers a credential called Registered Dental Assistant (RDA). If you seek to take this exam, you must meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

  1. Graduate of or scheduled to graduate from an accredited dental assisting program.

  2. Graduate of a military dental assisting program AND a minimum of one year of dental assisting work experience.

  3. Employed as a dental assistant for a minimum of three years (5,250 hours)

  4. Currently instructing an accredited Dental Assisting Program AND completed a course related to dental assisting AND have a minimum of three years of full-time teaching experience (or equivalent part-time experience equal to three years full-time)

What do dental assistants do?

Dental assistants perform a wide range of duties in their job. They have both administrative and clinical responsibilities, though the scope of their responsibilities may vary from state to state and from dentist’s office to dentist’s office. Typically, dental assistants prepare patients for their dental exam or procedure, sterilize and disinfect instruments, record treatment information, take down medical and dental histories, instruct patients in oral hygiene, order dental supplies, schedule appointments, and create orthodontic appliances. Some dental assistants are also qualified to take patient x-rays. 

If you’re interested in becoming a dental assistant, it helps to have the following qualities:

  • Detail-oriented
  • Finger and manual dexterity
  • Steady arms and hands
  • Effective interpersonal communication skills
  • Active listening skills
  • Service orientation
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Near vision
  • Organizational skills

Start your career as a dental assistant 

Dental assisting is an optimal career choice for individuals who wish to work in a growing industry, interact with different people, and have varied job responsibilities. The job outlook for dental assistants is on the rise, with a faster-than-average growth rate of 8% through 2031

Delta Technical College’s training program prepares students for entry-level dental assisting positions and can be completed in just nine months. 

To learn more about DTC’s dental school program, fill out the form below or schedule a tour of your local DTC campus.