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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 Assisting

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 Specialists1701104006.3
Dental Laboratory Technicians368301,0002.6
Dentists, General14954020,60016.3
Dental Hygienists7152064,20033.3
Dental Assistants3539074,40024.5
*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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Lowell: 211 Plain Street Lowell, MA 01852

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Paramus: 160 E. Route 4 Paramus, NJ 07652

Allentown: 5151 Tilghman Street Allentown, PA 18104

Mount Laurel: 1000 Howard Boulevard Mount Laurel, NJ 08054

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

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

Flint: G3630 Miller Rd Suite D Flint, MI 48507

Canton: 44958 Ford Road Canton, MI 48187

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Montgomery: 3736 Atlanta Highway Montgomery, AL 36109

Cincinnati: 11499 Chester Road Suite 200 Cincinnati, OH 45246

Birmingham: 100 London Parkway Birmingham, AL 35211

Wayne: 201 Willowbrook Blvd. Wayne, NJ 07470

Smyrna: 21088 Cobb Parkway Smyrna, GA 30080

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

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

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

Scranton: 517 Ash Street Scranton, PA 18509

Cuyahoga Falls: 2545 Bailey Road Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221

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Westerville: 4151 Executive Parkway Westerville, OH 43081

Windsor Mill: 6901 Security Blvd. Windsor Mill, MD 21244

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

Cookeville: 1025 Hwy. 111 Cookeville, TN 38501

Miami: 19600 South Dixie Highway, Suite B Cutler Bay Miami, FL 33157

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

Kingston: 166 Slocum Street Kingston, PA 18704

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

Foley: 200 East Laurel Ave Foley, AL 36535

Dothan: 200 Vulcan Way Dothan, AL 36303

Ravenna: 653 Enterprise Parkway Ravenna, OH 44266

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

Towson: 700 York Road Towson, MD 21204

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

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

Strongsville: 14955 Sprague Road Strongsville, OH 44136

Akron: 3428 W. Market Street Akron, OH 44333

Dayton: 3325 Stop 8 Road Dayton, OH 45414

Norfolk: 863 Glenrock Road Norfolk, VA 23502

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

Youngstown: 1030 North Meridian Road Youngstown, OH 44509

Hilliard: 3781 Park Mill Run Drive Hilliard, OH 43026

Louisville: 10509 Timberwood Circle Louisville, KY 40223

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

Canton: 1905 S Haggerty Rd Canton, MI 48188

Norwood: 4750 Wesley Avenue Norwood, OH 45212

Richardson: 2101 Waterview Parkway Richardson, TX 75080

Warrensville Heights: 4700 Richmond Rd Warrensville Heights, OH 44128

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Oklahoma City: 4621 N.W. 23rd Street Oklahoma City, OK 73127

Saint Charles: 3550 West Clay Street Saint Charles, MO 63301

Joplin: 809 Illinois Avenue Joplin, MO 64801

Wichita: 8853 E. 37th Street North Wichita, KS 67226

Quincy: 3609 North Marx Drive Quincy, IL 62305

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