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Dental Assistant Vocational Schools

Dental assistants are in more demand than ever. Dentists are increasingly relying on their assistants to handle routine aspects of their practice like settling patients into the exam chair, sterilizing the instruments, processing x-rays and maintaining dental records. In some states, dental assistants with the proper certification can handle more complex tasks like coronal polishing and fluoride treatments.

Dental assistant vocational, trade and technical schools can prepare you to work in a variety of settings -- from an oral surgeon's office to a pediatric dental clinic. Pursuing nationally recognized qualifications or an area of specialization can help you find the right fit for your career in this growing field.

Dental assisting specializations

The majority of dental assistants work in regular dental offices or clinics and therefore concentrate their training on general dentistry. However, there are opportunities to specialize in this field. In order to work in a dental specialty, your state or your employer may require additional training or certification.

Some dental assistant schools offer students the ability to receive specialized training. Others may offer training rotations that allow you to experience several specialty areas over the course of your schooling. In addition to general dentistry, specialties for dental assistants include:

  • Pediatrics: specializing in children and families
  • Orthodontics: specializing in incorrect bites due to irregularities in teeth or the jaw
  • Periodontics: specializing in gums, membranes, and bones that support teeth and the treatment and prevention of periodontal disease
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery: specializing in jaw, mouth or face surgery including plastic surgery, dental implants or oral cancer
  • Endodontics: specializing in dental pulp as in the case of root canals or cracked teeth

Dental assisting certifications and degrees

Depending on your state regulations and your employer's expectations, requirements for becoming a dental assistant range from a high school diploma and on-the-job training to a one-year certificate or a two-year associate's degree. High school classes in biology, anatomy and chemistry can help prepare students for a career in dental assisting.

Dental assistant vocational schools provide more specialized courses like oral anatomy where you'll learn about teeth, jaws and gums. Courses in chair-side assisting will teach you about dental tools and terminology. Some dental assisting schools offer classes in dental science, dental materials and radiology in addition to office skills including computing and communications. Laboratory classes and supervised practice offer hands-on dental assisting experience.

Some states require dental assistants to be certified, and some employers simply prefer to higher certified assistants. To check what's necessary for your state, the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB.org) lists specific state-by-state requirements.

To be eligible for certification, you must have completed a program from an accredited dental assisting school and be CPR certified. Alternatively, you may have a high school diploma along with 3,500 of approved work experience. For specialized certifications, check DANB's exam eligibility criteria.

DANB offers four broad certifications that can prepare you to specialize or gain a greater degree of responsibility on the job.

  • Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam covers general chair-side assisting, radiation health and safety, and infection control.
  • Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) covers orthodontic assisting and infection control.
  • Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA) covers coronal polishing, sealants, topical anesthetic and topical floride.
  • Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA) covers anatomy, morphology and physiology, impressions, temporaries, isolations, sealants, and restorative functions.

DANB also offers more targeted certifications, components of the broader certifications, which can often be taken with few or no prerequisites. Those include:

  • Infection Control (ICE)
  • Sealants (SE)
  • Impressions (IE)
  • Anatomy, Morphology and Physiology (AMP)
  • Coronal Polishing (CP)

Dental Assisting Salary and Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), dental assistants in the U.S. earned a median annual wage of $34,900, or $16.78 an hour, in May 2013. The top 10 percent earned at least $48,350 a year, while the lowest 10 percent earned up to $22,220. New Hampshire was top-paying state for dental assistants, with mean annual wages of $43,810, with Alaska and Minnesota coming in 2nd and 3rd.

CareerAnnual Median WageProjected Employment ChangeProjected 2012-2022 Growth
Dentists, All Other Specialists1634504006
Dental Laboratory Technicians364401,0002
Dentists, General14634020,60016
Dental Hygienists7111064,20033
Dental Assistants3490074,40024
*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

The BLS paints strong employment picture for dental assistants, with 25 percent growth predicted through 2022. This growth is driven in large part by improved access to health care.

Finding the right fit

Varying degrees of responsibility exist within the field of dental assisting and may depend your on specific certifications and areas of specialization. Pursuing additional certifications and specialties can help you target your career and may help you find the job that best fits your interests and abilities.

Sources:

Certified Dental Assistant, Exams and Certifications, Dental Assisting National Board, Inc., http://www.danb.org/Become-Certified/Exams-and-Certifications.aspx

Dental Assistant, American Dental Association, 2014, http://www.ada.org/en/home-ada/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/dental-team-careers/dental-assistant

Dental Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319091.htm

Dental Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm

Dental Assistant Vocational Schools
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Erlanger: 600 Rodeo Drive, Ste. 2 Erlanger, KY 41018

Madison Heights: 29429 John R Madison Heights, MI 48071

Fort Wayne: 4122 Lima Road Unit A5 Fort Wayne, IN 46805

Owensboro: 410 Southtown Blvd Suite 6 Owensboro, KS 42303

Evansville: 227 N Green River Rd Evansville, IN 47715

Cincinnati: 11590 Century Blvd., Ste. 210 Cincinnati, OH 45246

Charleston: 5707 MacCorkle Ave, SE, Suite 20 Charleston, WV 25304

Brighton: 8110 Murphy Drive Brighton, MI 48116

Johnson City: 3021 E. Oakland Ave. Johnson City, TN 37601

Niles: 5555 Youngstown-Warren Rd Unit 909 Niles, OH 44446

Saginaw: 4300 Fashion Square Blvd. Suite 202 Saginaw, MI 48603

Muskegon: 950 W. Norton Ave Suite D Muskegon, MI 49441

Muncie: 411 West Riggin Muncie, IN 47303

Dayton: 4490 Brandt Pike Dayton, OH 45424

Grand Rapids: 4528 Breton SE Grand Rapids, MI 49508

Flint: G3630 Miller Rd Suite D Flint, MI 48507

Davison: 815 South State Street Davison, MI 48423

Ann Arbor: 4741 Washtenaw Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Canton: 44958 Ford Road Canton, MI 48187

Granger: 445 E. University Drive Granger, IN 46530

Portage: 6235 South Westnedge Portage, MI 49002

New Baltimore: 51133 Birch Street Suite 100 New Baltimore, MI 48047

Huntsville: 930 Old Monrovia Road, NW, NW, Suite 12, Huntsville, AL 35806

Port Huron: 2887 Krafft Road Suite 700 Port Huron, MI 48060

Taylor: 22311 Eureka Road Taylor, MI 48180

Bowling Green: 1751 Scottsville Road, Suite 1 Bowling Green, KY 42104

Mansfield: 2150 West 4TH Street Mansfield, OH 44906

Morgantown: 1064 Suncrest Towne Centre Drive Morgantown, WV 26505

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Lincoln: Lincoln Mall 622 George Washington Highway Lincoln, RI 02865

Brockton: 375 Westgate Drive Brockton, MA 02301

Somerville: 5 Middlesex Ave Somerville, MA 02145

Lowell: 211 Plain Street Lowell, MA 01852

Philadelphia: 2180 Hornig Road Philadelphia, PA 19116

New Britain: 200 John Downey Drive New Britain, CT 06051

Paramus: 160 E. Route 4 Paramus, NJ 07652

Mount Laurel: 1000 Howard Boulevard Mount Laurel, NJ 08054

Shelton: 8 Progress Drive Shelton, CT 06484

Allentown: 5151 Tilghman Street Allentown, PA 18104

Get a hands-on, job-specific education at Lincoln College of Technology.

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Houston: 11310 Greens Crossing Houston, TX 77041

Nashville: 441 Donelson Pike Nashville, TN 37214

Fort Worth: 300 East Loop 820 Fort Worth, TX 76112

Cleveland: 14445 Broadway Avenue Cleveland, OH 44125

Shreveport: 2106 Bert Kouns Industrial Loop Shreveport, LA 71118

Garland: 1800 Eastgate Drive Garland, TX 75041

Honolulu: 1111 Bishop Street Suite 400 Honolulu, HI 96813

Lafayette: 303 Rue Louis XIV Lafayette, LA 70508

Memphis: 2710 Nonconnah Blvd. Memphis, TN 38132

Mobile: 828 Downtowner Loop West Mobile, AL 36609

Columbia: 607 Bush River Road Columbia, SC 29210

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At Fortis Institute, you may get the skills and training you need to prepare for a career. * Programs vary by location * Please contact each individual campus for accreditation information

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Lawrence Township: 2572 Brunswick Pike Suite 100 Lawrence Township, NJ 08648

Wayne: 201 Willowbrook Blvd. Wayne, NJ 07470

Cuyahoga Falls: 2545 Bailey Road Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221

Orange Park: 560 Wells Road Orange Park, FL 32073

Pensacola: 4081 East Olive Road Suite B Pensacola, FL 32514

Montgomery: 3736 Atlanta Highway Montgomery, AL 36109

Hyattsville: 4351 Garden City Drive Hyattsville, MD 20785

Richmond: 2000 Westmoreland Street, Suite A Richmond, VA 23230

Indianapolis: 9001 N. Wesleyan Road Suite 101 Indianapolis, IN 46268

Scranton: 517 Ash Street Scranton, PA 18509

Birmingham: 100 London Parkway Birmingham, AL 35211

Mobile: 3590 Pleasant Valley Road Mobile, AL 36609

Cincinnati: 11499 Chester Road Suite 200 Cincinnati, OH 45246

Winter Park: 1573 W. Fairbanks Aven. Suite 100 Winter Park, FL 32789

Erie: 5757 West 26th Street Erie, PA 16506

Salt Lake City: 3949 South 700 East Salt Lake City, UT 84107

Port Saint Lucie: 9022 South US Highway 1 Port St. Lucie Port Saint Lucie, FL 34952

Norfolk: 6300 Center Drive, Suite 100 Norfolk, VA 23502

Dayton: 555 E. Alex-Bell Road Dayton, OH 45459

Phoenix: 555 North 18th Street Ste. 110 Phoenix, AZ 85006

Grand Prairie: 401 E. Palace Parkway Suite 100 Grand Prairie, TX 75050

Kingston: 166 Slocum Street Kingston, PA 18704

Houston: 450 N.Sam Houston Parkway Houston, TX 77060

Westerville: 4151 Executive Parkway Westerville, OH 43081

Foley: 200 East Laurel Ave Foley, AL 36535

West Palm Beach: West Palm Beach West Palm Beach, FL 33405

Baton Rouge: 9255 Interline Ave. Baton Rouge, LA 70809

Cookeville: 1025 Hwy. 111 Cookeville, TN 38501

Ravenna: 653 Enterprise Parkway Ravenna, OH 44266

Nashville: 3354 Perimeter Hill Dr. 3354 Perimeter Hill Dr. Nashville, TN 37211

Dothan: 200 Vulcan Way Dothan, AL 36303

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Springfield: 7300 Boston Blvd Springfield, VA 22153

Rancho Cordova: 10863 Gold Center Drive Rancho Cordova, CA 95670

Louisville: 10509 Timberwood Circle Louisville, KY 40223

Akron: 3428 W. Market Street Akron, OH 44333

Norwood: 4750 Wesley Avenue Norwood, OH 45212

Oklahoma City: 50 Penn Place Suite 305 Oklahoma City, OK 73118

Hilliard: 3781 Park Mill Run Drive Hilliard, OH 43026

Chantilly: 14420 Albemarle Point Place Chantilly, VA 20151

Lake Mary: 1400 International Pkwy South Lake Mary, FL 32746

Fort Lauderdale: 3401 South University Drive Fort Lauderdale, FL 33328

Norfolk: 863 Glenrock Road Norfolk, VA 23502

Tampa: 4809 Memorial Highway Tampa, FL 33634

Warrensville Heights: 4700 Richmond Rd Warrensville Heights, OH 44128

Lexington: 2473 Fortune Dr. Suite 180 Lexington, KY 40509

Strongsville: 14955 Sprague Road Strongsville, OH 44136

Richardson: 2101 Waterview Parkway Richardson, TX 75080

Miami: 7955 NW 12th Street Miami, FL 33126

Salem: 2159 Apperson Drive Salem, VA 24153

Tulsa: 4943 South 78th East Avenue Tulsa, OK 74145

Youngstown: 1030 North Meridian Road Youngstown, OH 44509

Dayton: 3325 Stop 8 Road Dayton, OH 45414

Richmond: 300 Gateway Centre Parkway Richmond, VA 23235

Jacksonville: 7011 A.C. Skinner Parkway, Suite 140 Jacksonville, FL 32256

Canton: 1905 S Haggerty Rd Canton, MI 48188

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