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Dental Assistant


Dental Assistant

Fast Facts

National annual wage range:
$25,460 to $52,000*
Tuition and fees:
$16,434 to $18,000
Program length:
36-48 weeks

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Train to Become a Dental Assistant

Earn your Dental Assistant diploma in less than one year.

Now is great time to pursue a career in the dental field. Dental assisting is projected to be among the fastest-growing occupations in the nation through 2024.* Caring and knowledgeable individuals are needed to fulfill this growing demand. If you are good with people and follow directions well, dental assisting could be a good career for you.

At Brightwood College, we structure the learning experience around what you will need to know in the real world. Our dental assistant program is designed to help you develop the skills that will be most helpful on the job. We offer day and evening class schedules to help you meet the demands of family, work and education.

How long does it take to become a dental assistant? It depends on where you live, but through our Dental Assistant program, you can earn a diploma in as little as 9 months to a year.

Courtney, Student

I love being here. The teachers are amazing and they make you feel confident in yourself so that you can succeed. For me, hands-on is perfect. If I didn’t have the hands-on experience, things would be a little bit confusing because I do better when I’m looking at something.

Courtney, Student

Dental Assistant Training with Real-World Application

Through our Dental Assistant diploma program, you can receive the hands-on training and practical knowledge to pursue a career in dental assisting. Our school curriculum is market-driven. This means that our dental assistant classes are designed to help you develop the skills local employers are searching for. Your training will cover responsibilities from administrative duties to assisting at the chairside.

Our instructors train you in basic dental science and clinical skills. We cover topics such as oral anatomy so that you can identify oral variations in the clinical setting. We also discuss the materials used in dentistry, which can help you understand how to set up trays correctly and utilize the appropriate tools in procedures.

Receive a hands-on dental assistant education.

Our dental assistant school ensures you receive training beyond the classroom. In hands-on labs, you will have the opportunity to learn a variety of clinical skills including how to take impressions of teeth, assist dentists at the chairside and control infection.

Developing strong communication skills is also key component of your dental assistant training. We work to strengthen your interpersonal skills so that you can interact confidently and professionally with others. Our goal is to help you master pleasant chairside manner, a professional tone, listening skills and attentiveness to directions.

Rakeea, Student

I thought I wasn’t going to be able to pronounce these big words in these thick books. It’s a challenge, but you’ll get used to it. They help you through, step-by-step. If you don’t know, go ask any instructor. Someone knows. I can call them on weekends. They’re here for you. It’s pretty exciting to know that you have someone, besides family, on your side.

Rakeea, Student

Possible Learning Outcomes of Dental Assistant Training

Our dental assistant diploma program is intended to prepare you for entry into the dental field. The practical training you receive could help you learn clinical and administrative skills.

Clinical Skills:

  • Assisting at the chairside
  • Handling dental instruments
  • Controlling infection
  • Planning treatment in the eight specialty areas
  • Handling dental emergencies
  • Identifying structures of the oral cavity
  • Teaching patients about good oral hygiene
  • Understanding dental instrument functions

Administrative Skills:

  • Taking medical histories
  • Operating computer software
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Making calls
  • Ordering supplies and materials
  • Filing insurance information
  • Processing payments

Read our related post on benefits of a college education.

An externship to prepare you for dental assistant jobs.

Before you receive your Dental Assistant diploma or certificate, you will be required to complete an externship at a general dental office, clinic or other dental facility. An externship is a real job where you can actively participate in patient care. It is a true hands-on experience working under the supervision of a dentist or another dental professional. This gives you the opportunity to sharpen your clinical and administrative skills with real-world practice.

Read our related post for tips on how to turn your externship into a job.

How to Earn Dental Assistant Certification

Once you’ve successfully completed our dental assistant program, you may be eligible to take a certification or licensure exam. Certification or licensure can potentially make you a more appealing job applicant.

Dental Assistant certification exams you may qualify to take:

  • The Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) examination. Completing the RDA qualifies you to perform extended functions such as temporary restoration, periopacks, bases and liners as well as orthodontic expanded functions.
  • Depending on your campus and state, graduates of the Dental Assistant program may also receive a radiology certificate recognized by the Dental Board of California, a Coronal Polish Completion Certificate,† a Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) card, and an HIPAA Certificate.
  • The certification of registration exam approved by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE), which may include certification to perform radiologic procedures. In Texas, you must complete a mandatory short course approved by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners and be registered with TSBDE to be qualified to take x-rays in a dentist’s office.

California students: RDA examination pass rates are available at

Certification and licensure examinations vary by location. Please see your campus’ course catalog to determine which certification or licensure exam(s) may be available to you.

What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

An in-depth look at a dental assistant job description.

Dental assistants are often friendly, skilled communicators who encourage patients and support other staff in dental offices. Having fine motors skills or being good with your hands can be helpful traits in this role because you might work with precise dental instruments. Paying attention to detail and presenting a professional appearance can also serve you well.

What does a dental assistant do? Download our infographic to find out more.

Dental assistant jobs encompass a variety of tasks and day-to-day duties may vary. One of the primary responsibilities is helping offices run smoothly and efficiently. Daily activities can range from making phone calls to assisting at the chairside to explaining the dentist’s instructions to patients. Helping provide quality oral healthcare can be a satisfying career choice.

Dental assistant duties may include:

  • Preparing the exam room and setting up trays
  • Caring for patients
  • Taking impressions of patients’ teeth
  • Demonstrating good oral care to patients
  • Assisting with oral surgery
  • Performing oral evaluations
  • Processing x-rays (if certified)
  • Completing lab tasks (if certified)
  • Going over post-surgery directions
  • Maintaining infection control and sterilization
  • Ordering inventory and supplies
  • Processing and billing payments
  • Recording medical histories

Learn more a typical day as a dental assistant.

Potential Career Opportunities for Dental Assistants

When you earn your Dental Assistant diploma or certificate at Brightwood College, you have the opportunity to gain not only dental assistant knowledge and skills, but also professional skills that you could apply to your everyday life.

Learn more about potential dental assistant jobs.

As a graduate of our dental assistant program, you may apply for entry-level positions with dental group practices, public health institutions, clinics, dental insurance agencies and dental product distributors.Read our related tips on improving your job search.

Becoming a dental assistant may be your ultimate goal, but if you want to pursue more advanced degrees or positions in the future, you can continue on to careers such as office manager, dental sales person or a variety of positions in the research and insurance sectors.

Read our related post on how to perfect your elevator pitch.

How Much Do Dental Assistants Make?

Learn more about dental assistant salaries.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, dental assistants make an average salary of $35,980 per year.* Ongoing research has linked oral and general health, so the need for preventive dental services is likely to climb, creating a greater demand for dental assistants.* Earning a Dental Assistant diploma could help set you on a path of success and open up opportunities for you within the dental field.

Take the first step toward turning your skills into a bright new career. Fill out our information form or give us a call to find out if our dental assisting classes could be a good fit for you.

The College makes no representation, promise or guarantee that completion of this program either assures passage of any certification examination or acceptance by any state board. Prospective and current students, as well as graduates, are responsible for researching and understanding all examination, registration or licensure requirements in any state in which they seek to become registered, licensed or employed. Brightwood College does not guarantee employment or career advancement.

* The median annual wage for dental assistants was $37,630 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,460, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $52,000. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Dental Assistants, on the Internet at (visited July 13, 2018).National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

 Coronal polish completion certificate is to be filed with the RDA exam application. Licensure will be issued once the RDA exam has been passed by COMDA. Certain programs are designed to prepare students to take various certifications or licensing exams. The College cannot guarantee students will pass those exams.

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