Accredited Online Dental Assistant Schools - Degrees & Certificates

Dental assisting offers exciting career opportunities for people who want to work in the professional fields of dental hygiene or dentistry. Dental assistants are paraprofessionals who work directly with patients, dental hygienists, and dentists by performing various highly essential dental clinic duties in a team setting. With a projected faster than average expected growth of 7 percent nationally (2019-2029), dental assisting can be a rewarding and in-demand career option for people who enjoy working in teams, as well as for those wishing to explore future careers in dental hygiene or dentistry.

Emerging research from the American Dental Association shows a correlation between oral health and general health. Similar studies show that diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disorders are causing decreased healthy immune functions. This can result in an increased rate of periodontal disease and other oral infections. These findings, combined with a large aging population, are the two driving factors behind this profession’s projected steady job growth.

Dental assistants perform various clinical and administrative jobs while interacting with patients, dental hygienists, dentists, and administrative professionals. In addition to scheduling appointments and gathering patient’s information and medical history, dental assistants also provide support to dentists. At the same time, they tend to the dental and oral hygiene needs of their patients.

Dental assistants also prepare and sterilize surgical instruments and equipment and communicate post-surgery care instructions to patients. Other duties include handing tools to a dentist during a procedure, setting up and breaking down operating spaces, and contributing to various office management and administrative tasks.

There are various professional pathways in becoming a dental assistant, and educational requirements vary from state to state. Some states require new professionals to graduate from an accredited educational program and pass a national exam before working in a dental clinic. Some states replace formal education requirements with on-the-job training experience, allowing dental assistants to learn skills in a clinic.

Once a dental assistant student completes their training, there are options to pursue professional certification. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) is affiliated with the American Dental Association and has accredited approximately 240 dental assisting programs in the United States. After graduating from an accredited program or completing designated on-the-job training approved by a dentist, dental assistants can choose to take the Dental Assisting National Board’s (DANB) examination to become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA).

Read on to learn more about dental assistant school requirements, accrediting organizations, online dental assisting programs, and dental assisting professors to know.

Admissions Requirements & Accreditation of Dental Assisting Programs

While requirements vary from state to state, many dental assisting programs schools require the following documentation as part of their application process:

  • Completed application
  • Official transcripts
  • Personal essay
  • Prerequisite coursework
  • Background check
  • CPR certification
  • Drug screening
  • Physical examination
  • Attendance at information, advising, and orientation sessions

When selecting a dental assisting program, accreditation is an essential factor to consider. Financial aid is granted only to students attending accredited educational institutions. For the field of dental assisting, programs accredited by the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) are known to be held to high standards of educational quality and are valued by students and employers. CODA evaluates a variety of dental programs and schools, including predoctoral, advanced, and allied dental education programs.

Online Dental Assisting Programs

Featured below are five online and accredited dental assisting programs.

Please note that while CODA does not accredit Rutgers University and the University of Houston–Downtown, they are fully online dental assisting programs that prepare graduates to sit for the national DANB exam and state-specific dental assisting certification exams.

Indiana University

Indiana University offers a 31-credit undergraduate certificate in dental assisting primarily online (i.e., 80 to 99 percent) delivery format. In-person attendance is required one or two Saturdays a month for pre-clinics, labs, and exams. In addition, students can complete clinical experiences in dental offices at a location that’s most convenient for a student.

Coursework in this program features a blend of traditional and modern topics, ranging from oral pathology, physiology and anatomy, dental therapeutics, medical emergencies, communications, and preventative dentistry and nutrition. For students who wish to continue their studies, four of the required courses can be applied to four undergraduate degree programs.

After completing this program, graduates are prepared for careers as certified dental assistants, dental office administrators, or dental sales representatives. Students are supported throughout their studies through an exceptional range of support services, including orientation, financial services, success coaching, math and writing support, career services, online library access, learning technology applications, and real-time email, chat, and phone support available 24 hours a day.

  • Location: Indianapolis, IN
  • Accreditation: American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)
  • Tuition: $306.67 per credit (in-state), $957.58 per credit
  • Program length: Two semesters

Monroe Community College

The 24-credit hour online dental assisting rapid track (DART) certificate program at Monroe Community College is available for currently employed dental assistants who work with a sponsoring dentist.

Courses include pre-clinical dental assisting, radiography, infection control measures, biomedical foundations, clinical experience, and dental materials. Students in this program complete 500 hours of clinical experience with a sponsoring dentist as part of their requirements. Graduates of this program gain advanced skills in chairside dental assisting procedures, manipulation of dental materials, laboratory procedures, and radiographic techniques.

  • Location: Rochester, NY
  • Accreditation: American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)
  • Tuition: $196 per credit (in-state), $392 per credit (out-of-state)
  • Program length: Two semesters

Ozarks Technical Community College (Hybrid)

Ozarks Technical Community College offers a 24-credit hybrid certificate in dental assisting. Students in the hybrid program benefit from on-campus laboratory and clinical experience under the supervision of a dentist. The program prepares students to become valuable members of a dental health team. It prepares them to serve in various roles: chairside assistant, oral surgery assistant, office manager, laboratory assistant, and orthodontic assistant.

The dental assisting program offers two professional tracks for those seeking a certificate or an associate’s degree of applied science (AAS) in dental assisting. New cohorts begin once a year, and the hybrid program application deadline is in October.

  • Location: Springfield, MO
  • Accreditation: American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)
  • Tuition: $117 to $226 per credit
  • Program length: Two to four semesters

Rutgers University

Rutgers University features a completely online dental assisting certificate program. Nationally recognized, this program features coursework in records management, office equipment and inventory, interpersonal communication skills, and dental insurance processing. The online courses are taught by full-time university faculty.

After completing the program, students are prepared with the skills needed to perform essential dental duties, including patient and dental team interaction, dental terminology, DENTRIX software, and assisting dentists in patient care.

  • Location: New Brunswick, NJ
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $2,285
  • Program length: Six to 12 months

University of Houston–Downtown

The University of Houston–Downtown campus features a 100-hour fully online dental assisting program with a 40-hour clinical externship. This program is designed to prepare students for entry-level positions in dental assisting in clinical and administrative settings. In addition, it is an ideal starting place for those interested in future dental hygienist programs.

Coursework in this program reviews anatomy, terminology, legal, and ethical components of dental assisting and instrument identification, equipment maintenance, oral anatomy, anesthesia, sterilization, and charting. A CPR certification course is included as part of the curriculum.

After completion of this program, graduates are prepared to sit for the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE) dental assisting exam offered throughout the state of Texas and DANB exams, including specialized tests for Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) and Infection Control (ICE).

  • Location: Houston, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $1,199 for online course
  • Program length: 140 hours

Dental Assisting Professors to Know

Rebecca Caceres brings extensive experience to her role as dental hygiene program director at OTC. She’s a certified dental assistant, registered dental hygienist, and holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Evangel University. Since joining the faculty at OTC in 2010, she has developed an opportunity for dental students to travel to Nicaragua on an annual dental service mission trip. In addition, Caceres teaches dental courses to the community through the OTC workforce development department.

Dr. Lisa Morano is a health professions advisory faculty member at the University of Houston–Downtown for dentistry, dental hygiene, and dental assisting. Her research is centered around a common bacterium that causes Pierce’s disease in grapevines. She has served as a program director and has been awarded grants to build new curriculum and experiential learning opportunities. Dr. Morano earned her PhD from the University of California, Davis.

Dr. Janet Sell is the program director for dental assisting at OTC. As a certified dental assistant in private practices, she has created, directed, and participated in several continuing education dental events and seminars and worked as a curriculum consultant for the Commission on Dental Accreditation. She also has served on several professional organizations’ boards, including the Missouri Dental Assistants Association, Springfield Dental Assistants Society, and Missouri Dental Assisting Educators.

A certified online instructor and alumnus of the OTC leadership academy, she’s received several awards, including the Excellence in Education Award at OTC in 2013.

Rachel Drummond
Rachel Drummond Writer

Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. A dedicated Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Rachel is interested in exploring the nuanced philosophical aspects of contemplative physical practices and how they apply in daily life. She writes about this topic among others on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).