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Online Colleges for Dental Assistants

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During any typical visit to the dentist, a person's first interaction is likely to be with a dental assistant. People may be more familiar with dentists and hygienists, but dental assistants are important in keeping things running smoothly.

Though dental assistants may train on the job, many states and employers require formal training. Some even want dental assistants to pass the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). In order to take the CDA exam, future dental assistants must complete a certain amount of coursework from an accredited program as well as on-the-job clinical training.

Fortunately, online dental assisting programs can make it easier to access this training. Many programs can be completed in a year, six months or less, depending on the program and the student.

On this page, read about 10 featured online colleges for dental assisting, and learn what you can expect from them. Plus, find out more about this career and how to prepare for it.

Featured Online Colleges for Dental Assisting

Employers often prefer hiring dental assistants who have completed school training, and many states require it. Students can usually earn certificates or diplomas in dental assisting in a year or less.

For students who may be thinking about studying dental assisting online, the following list offers details about 10 featured programs.

Emily Griffith Technical College

The dental assisting program at Emily Griffith Technical College is a hybrid program, and it typically takes one year to complete. The theory courses are online while the hands-on, practical classes take place in a dental lab, either in the day or evening. The program ends with a clinical internship. Along with medical and dental courses, students receive job search training, including resume preparation, interviewing and more.

Emily Griffith Technical College calls itself a "school of opportunity," taking pride in welcoming all students, of any race, age or income level. According to its website, the school offers low tuition per credit hour compared to other schools in the region. It also has open year-round admissions.

Accreditation:

  • Candidate for Accreditation with the Commission of the Council on Occupational Education

Location:

1860 Lincoln St.
Denver, Colorado 80203
Go to School Website 

Hudson Valley Community College

The online dental assistant certificate program from Hudson Valley Community College is designed to prepare students for entry-level work as dental team members. Hudson Valley Community College is part of the State University of New York System. The program satisfies New York State licensing requirements for dental assistants, and graduates may also apply to take the DANB exam.

The program includes 27 hours of online coursework and 225 hours of hands-on experience during a clinical internship. It is typically a one-year program, and students may begin the program in fall only. Anyone accepted must attend an on-campus orientation meeting with the dental assisting coordinator.

Accreditation:

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Location:

80 Vandenburgh Ave.
Troy, New York 12180
Go to School Website 

International Career Institute

The dental assistant program at International Career Institute leads to an executive diploma. Since the school has no formalized time tables for its programs, students may be able to complete the dental assistant program in a year. Students are each assigned tutors who offer feedback on all written assignments. Course topics include oral healthcare, clinical dental procedures, use of instruments, chairside assisting, radiography, lab materials and techniques, anesthetic and office management. Students also learn employment skills.

International Career Institute is a network of six independent branches in the U.S. and five other countries that was formed in 1978. It educates tens of thousands of students worldwide.

Accreditation:

  • International Association of Private Career Colleges
  • International Accreditation and Recognition Council

Location:

8721 Santa Monica Blvd., #905
Los Angeles, California 90069
Go to School Website 

Monroe Community College

Monroe Community College offers a Dental Assisting Rapid Track (DART) certificate program that enables currently employed dental assistants in New York to receive the training they're missing. Under a supervising dentist's sponsorship, a student completes all courses online and receives 500 hours of hands-on clinical experience on the job.

Monroe is part of the State University of New York System. It has been recognized as being among the 19 most innovative community colleges in the U.S. as a member of the League for Innovation in the Community College.

Accreditation:

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Location:

1000 East Henrietta Road
Rochester, New York 14623
Go to School Website 

Ozarks Technical Community College

The Ozarks Technical Community College dental assisting program is the only program in Southwest Missouri accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Graduates are eligible to take the CDA exam, which is included in the program fees. Students in the hybrid program may earn a certificate (38 credit hours) or an associate of applied science degree (63 credit hours). Students may be able to complete these programs in nine months.

This hybrid program consists primarily of online courses along with face-to-face lab and clinic time on the Springfield campus or dental offices in the surrounding area. All students must attend a yearly dental program informational session once per academic year.

Accreditation:

  • Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Commission on Dental Accreditation

Location:

4242 S. Sheridan Road
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74145
Go to School Website 

Penn Foster Career School

The fully online dental assistant training program at Penn Foster can generally be completed in just four months; no externship is required. However, students may enroll in the Work Experience Option, in which students earn special certificates by completing 200 hours of clinical training at facilities of their choice.

The program includes a dental assistant exam review text that helps students prepare to sit for the DANB National Entry Level Dental Assistant exam. Penn Foster also provides students with a study planner app, access to a 24/7 online community of students and career guidance.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission

Location:

925 Oak St.
Scranton, Pennsylvania 18515
Go to School Website 

Stratford Career Institute

Stratford Career Institute, headquartered in Canada, offers a fully online dental assistant program that can typically be completed in six months to two years. It leads to a career diploma. Students learn about dental anatomy and instruments, as well as how to assist patients, read x-rays and use patient charts. Externships are not required.

Students enrolled at Stratford complete courses in job searching and employment strategies in addition to dental assisting topics. Payments may be customized and are all-inclusive, meaning there are no additional fees or textbook charges.

Accreditation:

  • None

Location:

1 Champlain Commons, Unit 3
Saint Albans, Vermont 05478
Go to School Website 

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) is part of the University of Texas System. It offers a fully online dental assisting program through its Office of Continuing Education. Because of this, students need not be UTRGV-enrolled. The program involves 100 contact hours. Topics covered include dental anatomy and physiology, oral health and disease prevention, radiology, crowns, dentures, dental equipment, impressions, administration and communication skills.

Students earn certificates upon graduation and are generally prepared to work as entry-level dental assistants. The program aims to prepare students to sit for the CDA exam.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Location:

1800 S. Main St., Suite 1100
McAllen, Texas 78503
Go to School Website 

U.S. Career Institute

The U.S. Career Institute dental assistant certificate program is fully online and can usually be completed in just four months. Students learn topics such as preventive dentistry and nutrition, office procedures, oral anatomy, pain management, oral surgery, restorative dental procedures, orthodontics, radiology and more.

Students also have the option to earn enhanced certificates, which provide additional supplements and tools to assist with training. With either option, students receive electronic or hard copy books, supplements, unlimited instructor assistance and unlimited career support.

Accreditation:

  • Distance Education Accrediting Commission

Location:

2001 Lowe St.
Fort Collins, Colorado 80525
Go to School Website 

Valencia College Continuing Education

Valencia offers a fully online administrative dental assistant certificate program. This program prepares students to oversee the business tasks of a dental office. Training deals with dental terminology and anatomy, but the focus is on office work, with courses in medical records management, accounts receivable, billing, coding and scheduling.

Based in Orlando, Florida, Valencia College is one of 270 community colleges in the U.S. (and one of five in Florida) to share $450 million in grant funding under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Initiative. This funding helps community colleges better provide training for in-demand careers.

Accreditation:

  • Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Location:

P.O. Box 3028
Orlando, Florida 32802
Go to School Website 

At a Glance: Dental Assistant Programs

The chart below shows program information at a glance for 10 featured dental assistant colleges. Here you can quickly see the typical program length and general tuition information. Note that the program lengths listed are estimates provided by the schools and they will vary based on student. The information in this chart is current as of May 2016.

CollegesOffers Tuition Under $2,000Typical Program length

Emily Griffith Technical College

 

1 year

Hudson Valley Community College

1 year

International Career Institute

 x

1 year or less (must complete in 3 years)

Monroe Community College

1 year (or less, if applicants test out)

Ozarks Technical Community College

9 months (both certificate and AAS)

Penn Foster Career School

 X

4 months

Stratford Career Institute

 X

6 months (up to 2 years)

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

X

100 contact hours (no defined timetable for completion)

U.S. Career Institute

4 months

Valencia College Continuing Education

X

4 months

Want to see additional online colleges for dental assisting?
Search our school directory to find the right program for you.

Interview with an Expert
A student may accelerate and complete the Dental Assistant Rapid-Track
program more quickly based on his or her professional experience.

David B Lawrence, DDS

Program Director for Dental Studies

Monroe Community College

Interview with an Expert
David B Lawrence

David B Lawrence, DDS

Program Director for Dental Studies

Monroe Community College

Q: What qualities make Monroe Community College's Dental Assistant Rapid-Track (DART) program outstanding?

A: MCC offers the only online dental assisting certificate available through the State of New York (SUNY) Learning Network. Our program includes courses in professional dental assisting, clinical content areas, biomedical sciences and communication skills. All courses carry college credit.

MCC recognizes a student's professional experience. Students enrolled in the DART program can "test out" (passing an exam to demonstrate knowledge and clinical experience) for up to seven credits based on their level of professional experience working as a dental assistant. (The certificate program requires 15 college credits.)

The DART program is an accelerated program that is flexible, allowing students to complete the certificate program in varying lengths of time. As a student becomes competent in a specific function, he or she can start performing that function within a professional dental care setting.

Q: What support does Monroe Community College offer its online student body?

A: Students taking online courses at MCC have access to the same support services available to students who attend classes on campus, including campus libraries, learning centers, help desks and career services. Because MCC is a member of the SUNY Learning Network, our students can also rely on the Open SUNY help desk to answer questions. The help desk is open seven days a week during the fall and spring semesters.

Q: How does the online DART program differ from the on-campus program?

A: A student may accelerate and complete the DART program more quickly based on his or her professional experience. A student who is currently working as a dental assistant can "test out" for up to seven credits. Students enrolled in the dental assisting certificate program on campus do not have the accelerated, test-out option.

Online Dental Assistant Courses

Every online dental assistant college or program is different, but students can expect to study certain topics as part of their training. The following courses are typically found in dental assistant programs:

Oral Anatomy
Students will learn the locations, structures and functions of the parts of the neck and head, as well as its circulatory system and the bones and muscles of the face. Students learn the structure and types of teeth and become familiar with dental terminology.

Preventive Dentistry and Nutrition
Students learn how plaque causes dental disease and will understand how fluorides help to combat it. The course also shows students the role nutrition plays in dental care and how preventive in-home measures ward off disease.

Infection Control
In this course, students learn about the importance of cleanliness, decontamination and sterilization, and what measures must be taken to protect patients. Students learn proper cleaning and sterilization of equipment and exam rooms.

Radiology/radiography
Dental assisting programs usually will cover the basics of taking and evaluating patient x-rays and the proper care of x-ray film. Some courses will cover the effects of radiation on the body.

Dental Materials
This course gives students an overview of the materials used in dentistry, including cement, porcelain, bonding agents, metals and implants. Students learn to prepare teeth for these materials, including prepping cavities for fillings, and how best to help dentists when they are used on patients.

Chairside Assisting
This course deals with the important role dental assistants play in interacting with patients. It shows students not only how to be compassionate and helpful, but also how best to touch and talk to patients during dental treatments, as well as how best to lend needed support to dentists.

Clinical Externship
Most programs will require students to complete hands-on training in a clinical setting -- usually a dentist's office or a school dental lab. This portion of students' training allows them to rotate through the different duties involved in dental assisting while under the supervision of dentists and hygienists.

Because of the high degree of personal interaction involved in this job, future dental assistants often receive training in communications. It helps to be a good listener as well.

A considerable amount of administrative work is involved in this job -- billing, coding, or working with patients and insurance companies -- so there usually is training in dental office software and administrative skills. Future dental assistants should be organized, detail-oriented and good at working with their hands.

Finally, students will spend a lot of time studying biology and chemistry, so it helps to be interested in science and to be precise about following procedures.

Dental Assistant Career Outlook

The DANB calls dental assisting one of fastest-growing health professions in the United States. This is due to several factors. Young people take better care of their teeth than previous generations, meaning that they have regular dental check-ups. Cosmetic procedures are increasing. More services and treatments are available to patients. Plus, new or expanded insurance coverage makes it more likely that patients will have regular dental exams. Below you can see a description of the dental assistant career, as well as the outlook for the job.

Dental Assistant
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2014 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$35,980
Annual Job Openings Annual job openings refers to the average job openings each year, 2012-22, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
323,110
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015
Postsecondary nondegree award
Every dental practice is different, but the responsibilities of dental assistants usually include assisting dentists during procedures, cleaning and sterilizing equipment and taking dental x-rays. Dental assistants work directly with patients, helping them feel comfortable during treatments and giving them oral care instructions. These professionals also take impressions of teeth for crowns and retainers. Another important part of a dental assistant’s job is office management tasks, such as filing, scheduling and billing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that dental assistants with advanced certification or training may have the best job prospects.
Salary
Number of Jobs
Job Growth
*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

Sources

  1. Dental Assistant overview, U.S. News & World Report, Accessed May 2016, http://money.usnews.com
  2. Dental Assistant, American Dental Association, Accessed May 2016, http://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/dental-team-careers/dental-assistant
  1. Dental Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-2017 Edition, Accessed May 2016, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm
  2. Dental Assistants, Dental Assisting National Board, Inc, Accessed May 2016, http://www.danb.org/The-Dental-Community/Dental-Assistants.aspx
  3. Emily Griffith Technical College, Accessed May 2016, www.emilygriffith.edu
  4. Hudson Valley Community College, Accessed May 2016, www.hvcc.edu
  5. International Career Institute, Accessed May 2016, www.icieducation.com
  6. Monroe Community College, Accessed May 2016, www.monroecc.edu
  7. Ozarks Technical Community College, Accessed May 2016, http://ww2.otc.edu/home/
  8. Penn Foster Career School, Accessed May 2016, www.pennfoster.edu
  9. Stratford Career Institute, Accessed May 2016, www.scitraining.com
  10. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Accessed May 2016, www.utrgv.edu
  11. U.S. Career Institute, Accessed May 2016, www.uscareerinstitute.edu
  12. Valencia College Continuing Education, Accessed May 2016, https://c2k.valenciacollege.edu/ce/Home.asp