Accredited Online Dental Assistant Schools - Degrees & Certificates
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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 a variety of highly essential dental clinic duties in a team-setting. With a projected faster than average expected growth of 19 percent nationally (2016-2026), dental assisting can be both 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, and 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 the projected steady job growth in this profession.
Dental assistants perform a wide variety of 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 while 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 instruments to a dentist during a procedure, setting up and breaking down operating spaces, and contributing to a variety of office management and administrative tasks.
There are a variety of 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 prior to working in a dental clinic. Some states replace formal education requirements with on-the-job training experience which allows dental assistants to learn skills in a clinic.
Once a dental assistant student completes their training, there are options to pursue for professional certification. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) is affiliated with the American Dental Association and has accredited approximately 270 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 take the Dental Assisting National Board’s (DANB) examination to become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA). The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the average salary for a dental assistant is $38,660 per year.
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
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/or orientation sessions
When selecting a dental assisting program, accreditation is an important 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 Rutgers University and the University of Houston–Downtown are not accredited by CODA, they are fully online dental assisting programs that prepare graduates to sit for the national DANB exam and state-specific dental assisting certification exams.
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: $191.91 per credit (in-state), $362.75 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 and ready them to serve in a variety of 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 and/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: $483 per credit
- Program length: Two to four semesters
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 months
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 and 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, as well as 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
- Program length: 140 hours
Dental Assisting Professors to Know
Rebecca Caceres brings extensive experience to her role of 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. 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.