Dental assistant working with patient

The path to becoming a dental assistant looks different depending on a person’s educational background and experience. Some people enroll in a dental assistant program to enter the field, while others start after high school to gain hands-on training immediately. To help you make the best choice for your career goals, The Praxis Institute discusses the different routes you can take to become a dental assistant.

Responsibilities of a Dental Assistant

The job duties of dental assistants are many, and they vary based on the location and specific role. In general, dental assistants work beside dentists while they conduct services. They often prepare rooms for patients by sanitizing equipment and hand dentists instruments to help them during examinations and other procedures.

A dental assistant may function much like a nurse and receptionist, as well. For instance, they may take a patient’s vital signs before a procedure and schedule follow-up appointments. The healthcare training for dental assistants often includes advanced duties, such as taking X-rays or applying fluoride to teeth.

Ways to Train as a Dental Assistant

Because each state has different educational requirements for this career path, there is no standardized approach to becoming a dental assistant. As a result, people have more flexibility when training in this healthcare field. Some avenues to this occupation include:

Hands-On Training

In some locations, dental assistants receive on-the-job training even without formal education. Shadowing a dentist or hygienist helps you learn how to communicate with patients, perform routine tasks, and better understand dental terminology.

Dental Assistant License

Although uncommon, some states require dental assistants to have a license before applying for entry-level positions. Licensure may involve graduating from an accredited postsecondary program or passing a test. You also can earn your license in some areas by participating in continuing education courses. Florida does not require a license for dental assistants but does require formal training.

Licensure might be necessary for specialty training, as well. For instance, a state may obligate a dental assistant to obtain a license to learn how to conduct X-rays or aid in surgical procedures.

Dental Assistant Certification

In states where dental assistants can perform coronal polishing and other complex tasks, they must take the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) test. To earn DANB certification, a dental assistant must pass the exam, be CPR certified, and either graduate from an accredited program or have a high school diploma with relevant work experience.

You also can seek further certification to provide specialty services as a dental assistant. DANB provides the following other certifications for those focusing on specific dentistry areas:

  • Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA)
  • National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA)
  • Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA)
  • Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA)

Bachelor’s Degree

If you have significant experience with dental assisting and want to enhance your career, consider enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program. This decision can lead to a promotion and increased salary potential at your current job or help you land a more rewarding position at a different dental office.

Dental Assistant Program

While you can find work as a dental assistant with a high school diploma in many areas, having postsecondary healthcare training will expose you to more job opportunities. Some states even require people to pass an exam or accredited program to become dental assistants.

Students can find a dental assistant program at a community college or vocational school. The coursework usually takes one to two years to complete, and graduates receive a diploma or certificate after passing the program. Besides classroom instruction, students also conduct laboratory work to learn more about teeth, gums, dental tools, and CPR.

Enroll in the Dental Assistant Program at The Praxis Institute

Students in the Miami, Florida area can enroll in the dental assistant program at The Praxis Institute to acquire the competencies necessary for an entry- or industry-level job in the field. This 11-month diploma program discusses the administrative and clinical aspects of dentistry theoretical instruction and practical application and provides students with 120 hours of externship in dental clinic settings. The Dental Assistant Program at The Praxis Institute provides its graduates Certification for Expanded Functions. Since our program is approved by the Dental Assisting National Board, students are qualified for NELDA certification upon graduation.

We enroll students every week at our campuses in Miami and Hialeah, FL. Also, we provide competitive rates and flexible scheduling to help make it easier to gain a career-focused education in this field. Our healthcare training prepares students to thrive in today’s changing job market. Contact us today to learn more about our dental assistant program.