How Long Does It Take to Become a Dental Assistant?
Working as a dental assistant is a wonderful career option to pursue for many reasons. First and foremost, it is a fulfilling occupation that allows you to help patients care for the health of their teeth, mouth, and gums. Most dental offices have traditional hours and provide flexibility as needed.
Additionally, employment rates for dental assistants are projected to grow by 7% through 2029—which is a faster rate than the majority of other occupations. This position typically pays quite well and there are often opportunities for growth with additional training and certifications.
Yet, the first question you may have about this job is how long it takes to complete a dental assisting healthcare program. Now, the technical answer to this question is that it takes about one year of education and preparation before you can apply to become a certified dental assistant.
Each state has a set number of hours of educational training that must be completed first. Some states also allow for on-the-job training in addition to or in replacement of classroom learning. After these are completed, you will need to take the Dental Assistant National Board’s (DANB) Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) exam.
If working as a dental assistant sounds like an ideal career to you, here are the steps you should take to get started:
1. Preparation Streamlines the Process
To get the ball rolling, you should first make sure that you meet your state’s requirements. There are some variations, but, generally, you need a high school degree or GED and be at least 17/18 years old to begin training.
The next step is to find a dental assisting program that is certified by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) or the Dental Board of the state. You also need to look for a school that provides a program to really prepare you for your practice work and the knowledge needed to pass the board exam.
Again, each state will have slightly different requirements for training. The state of California requires that candidates applying to take the RDA exam must complete one of the following:
- Graduate from a board-certified program with 800 hours of educational courses
- Complete 15 months of work as a dental assistant with a licensed dentist for adequate preparation
It is highly recommended that you enroll in a school to complete your dental assistant training so that you are well prepared for a future in this career. Once you ensure that you meet the qualifications, you can start the enrollment process.
2. Complete All of Your Courses
While it is certainly important to go to a dental assistant school that meets your state’s qualifications for training, it also needs to prepare you for a successful career. Blake Austin College has a state of the art facility where we combine classroom learning and hands-on training. We take care to show our students every step and explain, not just how we do them, but why we do them. This involves far more than just learning the correct way to clean a patient’s teeth.
As a dental assistant, you will be responsible for a variety of tasks, including:
- Taking X-rays
- Placing pit and fissure sealants
- Taking dental impressions
- Pouring models
- Assistant in orthodontic procedures
- Fabricating crowns
- Placing temporary fillings
During dental assistant training, you will take courses covering all of the procedures you will be responsible for. The state of California also requires that you take a course in infection control. Part of the state exam will cover law and ethics, which will also be taught during your training program.
At Blake Austin College, our dental assisting program is focused on providing hands-on learning experiences that set you up for long-term success. Our students work with dentists and instructors for comprehensive training that will get you ready to become a certified dental assistant. It typically takes our full-time students about one year to complete all of these courses.
- Introduction to Dental Assisting & Infection Control – 80 hours
- Pre-Clinical Dentistry & the Dental Team – 80 hours
- Specialty Dentistry – 80 hours
- Dental Materials & Laboratory Procedures
- Registered Dental Assisting with Expanded Duties
- Radiology in the Dental Office
- Business Administration for the Dental Office – 80 hours
- Expanded Duties I-Coronal Polishing – 80 hours
- Expanded Duties II-Pit & Fissure Sealants – 80 hours
- Law & Ethics and Infection Control – 80 hours
- Externship-Dental Assisting – 160 hours
3. Take Time to Prepare and Complete the State Exam
Once you complete all of the training hours from your program, you will qualify to take the state exam. You will likely want to take your exam fairly soon after you complete training while all of the information is fresh in your mind.
The first step is to apply for the RDA exam for your state and pay the application fees. You must also submit your fingerprints for a background check. Once the state determines if you meet the qualifications, you can schedule the three-hour written exam.
The RDA exam contains 150 multiple-choice questions that will be administered on a computer at the testing center. About 25% of these questions will focus on patient treatment and care, 35% will focus on dental procedures with 10% of the questions including specialty procedures. The remaining 30% of the questions will be about safety and infection control.
You must receive a minimum score of 75% to pass. You will typically hear the results within 4-6 weeks after you complete the exam. Once you pass, you will be a registered dental assistant!
Get Started On Your Future Career at Blake Austin
The sooner you enroll, the sooner you can begin a career as a registered dental assistant. If this sounds like a dream career to you, then why not get started today?
You can begin your journey by enrolling in the dental assisting training at Blake Austin College. We are accredited by the Dental Board of California and our programs are specifically tailored to teach the dental assistants of the future. You will receive hands-on training to get you ready to pass the exam and begin a long, successful career.
If you are interested in learning more, touring our Vacaville campus, or enrolling, please contact Blake Austin College today.