Even if you have a passion for helping people improve their oral care, being a dentist isn’t for everyone. That career path requires a long medical school education and demands a great deal of time and money. But fortunately, dentists aren’t the only people who help us take care of our teeth.
A dental assistant is exactly what it sounds like: a person who assists the dentist in every part of their job, from setting x-rays and handling equipment to running the office and scheduling appointments.
For many, a dentist’s office is an excellent place to work. Not only do they help people improve their health, but dentist offices are vibrant places, offering workers a chance to form long relationships with generations of patients.
Additionally, dental assisting has a remarkable family-friendly schedule. Unlike many other medical professionals, dental assistants do not have to be on call. Instead, they have a set schedule, making it easy to play for other parts of their lives.
Just as importantly, dental assistants enjoy excellent pay rates and job security. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental assistants make on average $41,180 per year. The industry is estimated to grow by 7% over the next few years, faster than average.
As you would expect with any job with such benefits, not just anybody can become a dental assistant. Instead, the job requires specific training, which you can get only from a certified program. Fortunately, there are lots of schools available to provide that training.
Following the rankings compiled on the Best Community Colleges with dental assistant degrees list at Niche.com, here’s some more information about the best dental assistant schools in the United States.
10. Minnesota State Community and Technical College (Fergus Falls, MN)
As a community college with campuses throughout the state, Minnesota State and Community College exist to provide exemplary training to students in a variety of fields. The school came to be in 2003 when Fergus Falls Community College and three campuses of Northwest Technical College merged to create a comprehensive community college that provides technical education.
The school’s dental assisting program equips students with the knowledge they need to support dentists in general clinical needs, intraoral clinical procedures, business office procedures, and laboratory tasks.
In addition to general studies, the MSCTC curriculum covers key parts of the dental assistant profession, including biomedical, dental and clinical sciences, as well as clinical practice and functions. At the end of the program, students leave ready to take the Dental Assisting National Board Certification Exam and the Minnesota State Board of Dentistry Registration Exam.
9. San Jacinto College (Pasadena, TX)
Although it was only established in 2016, the dental assistant program at San Jacinto College has already trained hundreds of professionals. The three-semester Dental Assisting Certificate of Technology program emphasizes science and skill development, incorporating lecture, laboratory, and clinical practice. From basic courses in dental science, dental radiography, and dental office management to advanced classes in communication and behavior, the program covers the full range of the dental assistant experience.
The San Jacinto College dental assisting program emphasizes the connection between dental hygiene and good health. Students learn that neglecting dental hygiene contributes to health problems and how to care for the whole patient. By showing patients links between oral health and overall health, students can better inform patients about ways that infections can close the airway and can become life-threatening or that periodontal disease can lead to cardiovascular problems.
8. Mountainland Technical College (Lehi, UT)
Mountainland Technical College prepares students for every part of the dental assistant experience, from the dentist’s chair to the administration office. In classrooms, students take coursework in the basics of dental science, and field trips expose them to actual clinics. During labs, students can work with classmates and bring in patients for learning non-invasive procedures, such as suctioning and taking impressions.
The school’s dental assisting externship lets students work on-site at a dental office and observe and assist in daily tasks. With the hands-on experience they gain, students not only increase their understanding of the profession but also develop necessary skills for success.
In addition to clinical chairside instruction in topics such as charting and medical emergency skills, students gain skills in office administration, such as patient record entry, health privacy information, and basic software knowledge.
7. Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (Shell Lake, WI)
At Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, future dental assistants receive skills to perform all necessary tasks in their profession, including laboratory, clinical, and office duties. Whether their career involves managing the office or working alongside dentists on patients, WITC has all the tools needed for success.
The dental assistant program teaches students how to perform various supportive dental procedures and manage infection. Classes guide students in producing diagnostic intraoral and extraoral radiographs, performing advanced dental laboratory procedures, and completing dental office business procedures.
The program achieves its goals thanks to experienced instructors with proven success in the field, as well as a cutting-edge curriculum designed in partnership with industry professionals. But the best indication of the class’s quality is its 100% placement rate. Everyone who graduates from the program finds work in the dental field within six months.
6. Western Technical College (La Crosse, WI)
With a technical diploma in dental assisting from Western Technical College, students can achieve a satisfying career. WTC’s program emphasizes the vital role dental assistants play in the healthcare profession, as they guide patients toward good oral health practices.
With a combination of classroom instruction, hands-on demonstration, and externship experience, students learn how to assist dentists as they treat patients. Additionally, the program prepares students for every task they may be asked to perform, including working in a dental lab, taking x-rays, scheduling appointments, and managing the office. Courses emphasize necessary aspects of the profession, such as chairside skills, dental anatomy, dental radiography, oral hygiene, OSHA standards, and communication skills.
At the end of the program, students are ready to become certified by completing an examination by the Dental Assisting National Board.
5. Manatee Technical Institute (Bradenton, FL)
At Manatee Technical Institute, become a dental assistant isn’t just a matter of finding a financially satisfying career; it’s all about becoming an essential worker. That distinction indicates how MTI views dental assistants: as crucial parts of our entire health.
To that end, the program equips students with entry-level skills for every aspect of the job, including general chairside functions, dental laboratory activity, and business office administration. At the end of the 11-month program, graduates leave with a state certificate in radiography and dental assisting expanded functions, ready to pass the national board exam to earn Certified Dental Assistant credentials.
So strong is the program that 96% of students finish it within the intended 11 months. More impressively, 100% of students who graduate from MIT’s program find employment as dental assistants within six months.
4. Charlotte Technical Center (Port Charlotte, FL)
Located in the center of Charlotte County in Florida, Charlotte Technical Center exists to create a culture of positive learning that ensures success and inspires purpose for all. The school strives to provide students with an effective and innovative technical education, which prepares them to succeed in the workplace.
For those in the dental assistant program, these goals are achieved with the construction of the curriculum. Combining didactic, academic, and clinical instruction, the program covers all aspects of the profession, from chairside clinical work to office administration to lab activities. In coursework demonstration and lab practice, students perform various invasive procedures, such as placing retraction cords and dental dams, as well as non-invasive procedures, including impression taking and patient education.
At the end of the program, students participate in clinical rotations through partnerships with local dental offices, bringing with them CTC’s commitment to inspiration and positivity.
3. Fox Valley Technical College (Grand Chute, WI)
From the outset of the program, Fox Valley Technical College affirms dental assistants as integral members of the dental health team. To that end, every aspect of the program takes seriously the importance of the career, not just to oral health but also to general well-being.
FVTC prepares students to provide chairside assistance and conduct lab procedures in connection with the dentist. The program equips students with practical skills such as disinfecting and sterilizing dental instruments, recording dental histories and vital signs, and managing dental and medical emergencies. Thanks to the school’s excellent resources, students gain familiarity with tools central to the trade.
With the technical diploma they earn, students are ready to take the national certification examination. With this experience, they’re prepared to hold essential jobs such as dental office manager, dental insurance claim representative, laboratory assistant, and more.
2. Western Iowa Tech Community College (Sioux City, IA)
At Western Iowa Tech Community College, dental assistants don’t simply sit back and follow the dentist’s leads. Rather, they are active and engaged participants, responsibly for providing quality dental services.
To that end, the school teaches students a range of skills, including infection control management, chairside assisting procedures in general and specialty dentistry, management of medical and dental emergencies, intra- and extra-oral radiographic procedures, patient education, fabrication of oral appliances, and basic business office procedures.
The program offers instruction in both face-to-face and a hybrid online format. Although both options adhere to the same requirements, the options give students more opportunities for earning their diplomas according to their own schedule. In the hybrid version, teachers focus on meeting the employment needs outside the school’s immediate area. To that end, WITCC works to find partners in the student’s area for clinical assignments.
1. Lake Area Technical College (Watertown, SD)
At Lake Area Technical College, students in the dental assistant program learn how to be more than a dentist’s extra set of hands. They become vital members of the dental health care team.
Over the course of LATC’s 11-month program, students receive both basic science instruction in coursework and hands-on experience in labs and clinical rotations. The program trains future dental assistants to perform highly technical tasks, such as assisting general and specialty dentists during procedures, recording patient medical histories and taking vital signs, and administering nitrous oxide and oxygen to patients. In addition to a standard face-to-face technical diploma, students can also earn a certified e-degree in dental assistantship. Without sacrificing any of the rigor of its face-to-face degree, the e-degree program includes 300 hours of clinical experience in a dental office approved by the Lake Area Tech dental department.